Oregon Secretary of State


Voting and Voter Registration

Elections in Oregon

white, orange and purple fireworks at the Waterfront Blues Festival
Fireworks at the Waterfront Blues Festival on the Willamette River in Portland to celebrate the 4th of July. (Oregon State Archives Scenic Image 20130704-D8C_1940​)
​Regular elections are held on one of four days each year, except in cases of emergency. The election days are:

  • the 2nd Tuesday in March,
  • the 3rd Tuesday in May,
  • the 4th Tuesday in August
  • the 1st Tuesday, after the first Monday, in November.

Elections are conducted exclusively by mail. Voters who are registered as of the 21st day before an election are mailed a ballot to vote and return by election day. 

The use of vote by mail was first approved on a limited basis by the Legislature in 1981 and was made a permanent feature of some elections in 1987. In 1998, Oregon voters amended state law to require that the primary and general elections in May and November of even-numbered years also be conducted through vote by mail. Beginning in 2000, primary and general elections have been conducted by mail. In 2007, the Legislature provided that all elections be conducted by mail. In 2019, the Legislature approved funding for postage paid envelopes to be provided for returning ballots starting in 2020.

Major political parties use the primary election to nominate candidates to run for partisan office in the general election. Minor political parties nominate candidates to run for partisan office in the general election according to party rule, and those candidates do not appear on the primary election ballot. Partisan offices include U.S. President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, State Senator and State Representative.

Oregon’s primary is closed, meaning only registered voters of a major political party can vote for candidates of the same party. At the primary election, voters who are not registered in one of the major political parties would receive a ballot 
containing nonpartisan contests, such as judicial elections, which all registered voters may vote on. 

At the general election, voters will receive a ballot containing both partisan and nonpartisan offices and can vote for any candidate even if they are not of the same party. Most statewide ballot measures are on the general election ballot.

Registering to Vote

Every Oregonian who is at least 16 years old, a U.S. citizen and an Oregon resident can register to vote. To participate in an election a voter must be registered at least 21 days before the election. Persons registered to vote in other states may not transfer their voter registration to Oregon.

There are three ways to register to vote in Oregon, Oregon Motor Voter automatic voter registration, online voter registration and paper registration.

The Oregon Motor Voter (OMV) registration law took effect on January 1, 2016, making Oregon the first state in the nation to implement automatic voter registration. Automatic registration is available to those who apply for an original, renewal or replacement driver’s license, permit or identification card and provide evidence of citizenship at a Driver and Motor Vehicle Division (DMV) office.

The OMV registration process takes approximately three weeks until a voter’s registration is effective. If an election will occur in the two months following the DMV interaction, one of the other methods of registering to vote should be used to ensure the voter will be eligible to vote.

Paper voter registration forms can also be mailed or hand-delivered to a county election office, or a voter can complete the form electronically at oregonvotes.gov. Forms are located in many public buildings, in every county elections office and in many state agencies including the Office of the Secretary of State, Elections Division.
Registration Deadlines ORS 247.025 

A completed registration form must be postmarked or delivered to a county elections office or voter registration agency (e.g., DMV) no later than 21 days before the election. Electronic registrations must be completed no later than 11:59 p.m. 21 days before the election. Oregon residents who are not U.S. citizens by the deadline to register to vote, but who will be citizens by election day, should contact their county elections office for information about how to register to vote.

Persons who become residents of Oregon after the deadline to register for a U.S. presidential election may be eligible to vote for U.S. president and vice-president. Contact your county elections office for more information.

Maintaining a Current Voter Registration

Registered voters should update their registration if their home address or mailing address changes, their name or signature changes, if they want to change or select a political party or will be away from home on election day.

A registered voter can provide the new information online at www.oregonvotes.gov or by completing and returning a voter registration card to a county elections office or voter registration agency (e.g., DMV).

With the exception of changes to a voter’s political party affiliation, updates can be made at any time including as late as election day in order to vote in that election. Political party changes, which determine the type of ballot a voter receives for the primary election, must be made no later than 21 days before the election.

Voting Absentee

Absentee ballots are mailed to military and other out-of-state voters in advance of the regular mailing of ballots. Voters should contact their local elections office to obtain an absentee ballot if they will be away from home on election day.

Voters’ Pamphlets

For each primary and general election and for most special elections, the Elections Division produces and distributes to every household, a pamphlet containing information about candidates and measures that will appear on the ballot at the election. Many counties also produce pamphlets that contain information about local candidates and measures.