Elections in Oregon
All regular elections in Oregon are held on one of four days each year, except in cases of emergency. The election days are:
- the second Tuesday in March,
- the third Tuesday in May,
- the third Tuesday in September, and
- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Elections are conducted 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 will be conducted by mail.
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 not are 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 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 at a Driver and Motor Vehicle Division (DMV) office.
This process takes approximately three weeks until it is effective. If an election will occur in the next two months, 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 on the Elections Division website. Forms are located in most banks and public buildings, in every county elections office, and in many state agencies including the Office of the Secretary of State, Elections Division.
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 at the primary election, must be made no later than 21 days before the election.
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.
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.
2020 Filing Deadlines
Primary Election: The candidate filing period for the May 19, 2020, primary election begins on September 12, 2019, and ends on March 10, 2020. The deadline for filing Voters’ Pamphlet material with the Elections Division is no sooner than January 20, 2020, and no later than March 12, 2020.
General Election: The candidate filing period for the November 3, 2020, general election begins on June 3, 2020, and ends on August 25, 2020. The deadline for filing Voters’ Pamphlet material with the Elections Division is not sooner than July 6, 2020, and no later than August 25, 2020.
Office of the Secretary of State, Elections Division
Address: 255 Capitol St. NE, Suite 501, Salem 97310