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A voter drops off a ballot in May 2016. Ballots for the 2018 general election are due at election offices by 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

Well, now you've done it. If you're reading this on Monday morning, you're really up against a hard deadline: You have just over 24 hours remaining to find the spot where you dropped your ballot, blow the dust off it, finish voting, sign it (make sure you sign it) and return it to one of the drop-off boxes scattered around the mid-valley.

Don't mail your ballot: It's too late to mail it in, because it won't arrive at county elections offices by the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline. (No, postmarks don't count.) 

And if your ballot isn't in the hands of elections officials by 8 p.m. Tuesday, your vote won't count. And that would be a shame, particularly in this election, which features a number of unusually compelling races.

We understand that some of you might have been putting off voting until the last possible moment because there are some close calls on the ballot; in fact, our own ballot remained unfinished as we agonized over one last race. But you can't agonize forever; go ahead, take a deep breath, mark the ballot and drop it off. (And, actually, it's OK if you can't make up your mind about one or two races; plenty of ballots arrive at elections offices with blank spaces.)

Early indications around the nation are that turnout could be unusually high for a midterm election. Turnout in Oregon, of course, tends to be higher than around the nation because of our vote-by-mail system. For example, Linn County's turnout in the 2014 election was around 72 percent. In Benton County, turnout in the 2014 election was a shade over 75 percent. Statewide, turnout in the last four midterms has been right around 70 percent.

That's pretty good. But that still means that thousands of registered voters don't take the time to vote unless there's a presidential race to decide.

Which is a shame: This Oregon election features a number of high-stakes races, including a fascinating battle at the top of the ballot for Oregon governor. On the county level, ballots in both Benton and Linn counties feature county commission races which have taken unexpected turns in the last few weeks. 

Linn County voters have a rare luxury on their ballots: contested races for two of the county's five circuit court judges. Once judges are elected, it's rare for them to be challenged for re-election, so Linn County voters would be foolish to not take advantage of this opportunity.

Voters throughout the mid-valley, including Albany and Corvallis, will be selecting mayors and city councilors. A number of mid-valley legislative seats are up for grabs. Linn County voters will be facing a pair of countywide measures, including a Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance. (Nine other Oregon counties are voting on similar versions of this proposal, which would give county sheriffs the right to determine if gun-control measures are unconstitutional.)

And the ballot also has five statewide ballot measures, including constitutional amendments regarding the taxation of groceries and how the Legislature can increase taxes and fees, an effort to repeal the state's 30-year-old sanctuary law, an attempt to bar the use of state Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions and a proposal to allow nongovernmental entities to use bonding funds to pay for affordable housing projects. There's likely something in that list that will catch your attention.

All in all, it would be a mistake to let your ballot languish on your desk or kitchen table or wherever you left it. So the time has come to dig it out, sign it and return it to a drop-off box. Do it today; it leaves too much to chance if you leave this task until tomorrow. And then you can be assured that your voice will count in an election that will have a real impact on our local communities. (mm)


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