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government oregon elections 2004

Photos and brief report from Multnomah County Elections office in Portland

i really like that we have vote-by-mail here in this part of Cascadia temporarily known as Oregon. i appreciate having lots of time with the ballot to research my choices, discuss them with friends (and otherwise), and fill it out really slowly if i'd like, in the comfort of my own home. But as long as i've lived here, i've never mailed it. i always bike it up to the Multnomah County Elections Office on 10th & Morrison in Portland. i do this for two reasons: a) i want to assure that my ballot arrives safely where it's supposed to go, and b) i enjoy the sense of occasion and excitement of going somewhere in person on sElection Day.

So today i biked up there in the rain with my ballot, and the ballots of my roommates, and i was not disappointed. It was quite a scene up there.
There was a line all the way down the block from the front doors. "Oh shit," i thought. "i don't want to wait in that!" (i had to be at work in an hour and it looked like it would take longer than that!) But i soon found out the line was for people who had issues with their ballots and needed them solved -- changes of address, etc. Even though you must _register_ by 21 days before the sElection, you can make changes right up to the day itself. That's what those folks were doing.

On the other side of Morrison, folks with "Carry Oregon" (a pro-Kerry group) were holding signs saying, "HONK IF YOU VOTED!" and also were staffing a tent with coffee and cookies. They were there to answer questions, help people out, and observe. Three of them had name tags identifying themselves as legal observers, and at least one was also a lawyer. They reported that there had been no issues at all today here at this office, which is in great contrast to the shenanigans happening all over the rest of the country. (Again, i was grateful for mail-in voting, as this gives enemies of democracy a much bigger challenge when it comes to creating fraud.)

After chit-chatting with these folks for awhile about the events around the country, i got back on my bike and got in a line of cars who were pulling up on 10th to deliver their ballots to County workers. A driver would pull up, their window would go down, they'd hand their ballot over, and the employee would put it in a big box under a tent. The employee was impressed that i'd come out in my raingear and carried my ballots safely in a plastic bag. i felt totally comfortable handing them over to her, and seeing that they were going right there into that box.

i have no illusions about the limitations of voting as a political tactic, but i see no harm and possibly some good coming out of it. Though i am not at all a Kerry supporter, i was happy to see the Carry Oregon folks out there, trying to lend a hand. All in all, it was a satisfying experience. Now it's time to get back to the day-to-day work of making change in the world, work that doesn't start or stop with any one sElection.

Thank you for the thoughtful account of voting day. 02.Nov.2004 18:22


it is refreshing to see some reporting about the elections that is not absurdly hostile and uncomradely, but retains a healthy suspicion of the idea of the vote as the most important (or the only) form of political participation.

It may not be as peachy as you think. 05.Nov.2004 09:53


The votes are entered into a voting machine just like the ones that are causing so many problems all over the country. Just because we don't see the shenanigans doesn't mean they're not happening. Also a huge amount of the people in line were there not just because address changes and the like. They were there because they had registered 2 weeks or more before and had not received their ballots. Everyone we talked to with this problem were registered Democrat.