Pediatric neurosurgeon and accused stalker Monica Wehby easily beat second place Jason Conger 50 percent to 37 percent yesterday in Oregon’s Republican US Senate primary, after voters ran out of time to make an informed decision.
A police report detailing allegations that Wehby repeatedly stalked her ex-boyfriend at his home, entered without his invitation, and harassed his employees, did not emerge until Friday, May 16, the last day in which Oregon voters could be reasonably assured of putting their ballot in the mail and having it arrive by the state’s Tuesday, May 18 received-by deadline.
Wehby will go on to be trounced by Democratic incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley in the November general election.
Every election season our state’s editorial boards chime in with demands to switch Washington’s postmarked-by Election Day ballot deadline to Oregon’s more restrictive received-by deadline. The argument is that forcing voters to return their ballots sooner would result in faster election results. But as I’ve repeatedly explained, it won’t. Our elections departments can’t keep up with the volume of ballots that already arrive during the final couple days of the election. All switching the deadline would do is disenfranchise thousands of additional Washington voters.
But the Wehby incident illustrates another disadvantage to Oregon’s received-by deadline: it effectively shortens the election season by three or four days, leaving many voters unable to respond to late-breaking news like Wehby’s stalking scandal. In Washington, you can drop your ballot off at your neighborhood post office as late as Tuesday afternoon and be reasonably assured that your vote will eventually be counted, but in Oregon you damn well better put your ballot in the mail by Friday, Saturday at the absolute latest. Sure, first class mail sometimes arrives next day when mailed within the same urban center, but sometimes it doesn’t. So you’d be crazy to post your ballot on a Monday.
In practice, Tuesday’s proximity to the weekend essentially moves Oregon’s vote-by-mail Election Day to the previous Friday.
There are many advantages to a vote-by-mail election, not the least of which being the vastly reduced opportunities for voter suppression. But there is no reason to exacerbate the system’s weaknesses in pursuit of maybe reporting election results a tiny bit faster.