- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A day before the deadline to vote, Kevin Cadwallader walked into a grocery store on Monday and put his ballot into an official drop box festooned with American-flag balloons.

“I wanted to see if there was going to be anything else that comes out in the press,” Cadwallader said once he was back in the parking lot after inserting his envelope through the slot in south Salem. There was a lot of “he said, she said” in the U.S. presidential race, Cadwallader noted, but nothing that changed his vote.

A total of 50.3 percent of Oregon’s 2,567,282 registered voters had cast ballots by mail or in drop-boxes by Monday morning, a day before election day on Tuesday, the Oregon secretary of state’s office said. That’s a slightly smaller percentage than in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Just a couple of blocks from the Oregon State Capitol, which is quiet this time of year with the Legislature not in session, the Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess’ office was a hive of activity.

Burgess had about 100 part-time workers sitting at rows of tables and standing at counters, going through stacks of incoming ballots that are enclosed in envelopes with each voter’s signature.

Those ballots that seemed to have more than one vote for a candidate or for a measure, or a write-in candidate, received extra scrutiny in another room.

“We cherish the idea that everyone’s vote is important and sacred,” Burgess, who was wearing an American-flag tie, told a visiting mother and her four young children, who were staring goggle-eyed at all the activity.

In a backroom, the shelves were laden with ballots, whose results have been digitally tabulated by his people but not yet counted. The results will be added up by computer after polls closed. He said there were about 80,000 ballots in the room already, available to be hand-counted in case a recount is ordered.

Similar activities were being done Monday in all of Oregon’s 36 counties.

Grant County, in eastern Oregon, has the highest return rate so far on ballots, with 62.7 percent. Columbia County had only 43.6 percent.

Oregonians vote by mail. While it’s too late to mail in a ballot for it to be counted, voters can take them to drop boxes as long as they do so by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Cadwallader, a construction worker with six children, said a lot is resting on the outcome. “It comes down to, what kind of country do I want my kids growing up in?” he said.


Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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