Have you wondered what path your Multnomah County ballot takes, from when it’s produced and sent to you, to when it’s cast and ultimately counted? 

Your Ballot Begins...

Your ballot is prepared about 60 days before the election, and ready to be mailed 20 days before the election, as required by Oregon statute. 

Ballots mailed to the county elections office in Southeast Portland can arrive as soon as the next day. 

Ballots dropped off at an Official Ballot Drop Box or library site are regularly picked up in locked ballot containers by teams of two sworn election officials.

Your Ballot Arrives for Verification... 

Once your ballot arrives at the Elections Division, employees sort and then capture an image of your signature on the ballot envelope. 

Ballots must have a valid signature to be counted. 

The first signature check is performed using the same signature verification software as the banking industry. 

If the signature isn’t a 100% match to the signature you provided when registering to vote, it goes before election workers with years of experience in handwriting analysis for a second and sometimes third look.  

Senior Elections staff may also review a flagged signature for a final decision before it is challenged. 

If your signature doesn’t match or if you ever forget to sign your ballot envelope, then you’ll receive a letter letting you know that your ballot signature has been challenged. You will have 21 days after the election to respond and provide a matching signature so you can ensure that your vote counts.

Your Ballot Is Opened...

As they are sorted and checked for valid signatures, ballots remain sealed in their envelopes while they are stored at a secure location. 

As soon as ballots are returned, the Elections Division can begin to pre-process and scan the ballots into the ballot counting system.

Ballot envelopes are opened in a three-step process:

  1. Automated “ballot extraction tables” cut two sides of each envelope and remove their contents.
  2. Elections Division staff unfold and prepare the ballots for counting. 
  3. Elections Division workers bundle all signature envelopes by batch so they can be retained and stored for two years per federal mandate.

County employee counting ballotsYour Ballot Is Counted

The ballot is tabulated by a ballot counting system that is secured inside an isolated room. It is a stand-alone system that’s never connected to the internet or any other network. 

Generally 50 to 60 percent of the total ballots cast in an election are reported by 8:00 p.m on Election Night in Multnomah County. 

But ballot processing continues into the following day, with results continually updated at mcelections.org. By the Thursday after the election, 97 percent of ballots cast are typically counted, with the results regularly reported as counting finishes. Then, 27 days after the election, the final results are formally certified.


Watch the Video: "The Path of the Ballot: Multnomah County"

Download the flyer and workflow graphic

Path of a Ballot (1.1 MB) path of a ballot workflow (796.48 KB)