- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Election time has arrived in Oregon.

State election officials began dropping more than 2 million ballots in the mail on Wednesday, and they could arrive as soon as Thursday. Tens of thousands of Oregonians will vote each day through Nov. 4.

That means mailboxes will be stuffed with election mail for the next three weeks, phones will be ringing and the volume of political television commercials will be multiplying as campaigns try to motivate their supporters and sway undecided voters.

The ballot is packed with high-profile races.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, are defending their seats against Republicans Dennis Richardson and Monica Wehby, respectively. All 60 state House seats and 16 of the 30 state Senate seats also are up for grabs. Control of the House is likely to stay with Democrats’, but the Senate majority will be decided in a handful of races.

Seven ballot measures will be decided, including marijuana legalization, a labeling requirement for genetically engineered foods and a new system for conducting elections.

Ballots can be returned by mail - don’t forget the postage - or dropped off for free at official drop boxes in all 36 counties. They are due in the hands of election offices by Nov. 4. Officials recommend that they be hand delivered after Oct. 31 to be sure they arrive on time.

In past elections, roughly a third of voters cast their ballots in the first week. Each passing day means the pool of remaining voters that can be influenced by advertising or new revelations dwindles.

Campaigns religiously track which voters have returned their ballots and work hard to nudge those they believe are supporters.

“When you do vote, for the most part the campaigns will leave you alone,” said Tony Green, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. “If you want to see less campaign mail, fewer telephone calls and emails, vote early.”

Ballots may take several days to arrive. Anyone who believes they’re registered but doesn’t receive one by the weekend should contact their county elections office, Green said.

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