Voter Glossary

Sources for this glossary are and

  • Absentee Voting – You may apply for absentee voter status if you live out of state or if you know that you will be absent for the election (i.e., you will be out of town prior to the election and are putting your mail on hold.) Absentee ballots are available 45 days before the election. To apply for absentee voter status: obtain an absentee ballot request form from your county elections office, or fill out the form, and return it to your county elections office in person, via US mail or fax. For more information, visit
  • Overvote – when an elector casts more votes in a contest than is allowed. This results in a spoiled vote, a ballot which is not counted in the final tally. For example, a voter who votes for two candidates in a contest that permits only one vote has overvoted, and his or her ballot cannot be counted for the race in which the voter overvoted.
  • Provisional Voting – If there is a question about your eligibility as a voter or if you need to vote at a county elections office in a county other than the one in which you live, you will be issued a provisional ballot. In order to get a provisional ballot, you need to fill out a provisional ballot request form at the county elections office. Provisional ballots are counted 14 days after Election Day. Your provisional ballot will not be counted until it is determined that you are eligible to vote. After you have voted the ballot, you can call 1-866-ORE-VOTES or the county elections office in which you voted to find out if your ballot was counted. If it is determined that you are ineligible to vote in this election, the completed provisional ballot request form will serve as your voter registration for future elections.
  • Ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. Oregon currently uses first-past-the-post, plurality voting, but there are other possibilities.
  • Plurality is the American status quo. It’s easy to use and understand, but it discourages sincere voting and, compared to other methods, is less effective at electing the candidate who is most representative of the people.
  • Undervote – when the number of choices selected by a voter in an election is less than the maximum number allowed for that election. An undervote also occurs when no vote is cast for a single-choice election. For example, a voter that is permitted to cast one vote for a presidential candidate and does not select a candidate, or a voter who has only cast two votes in a contest allowing three, has undervoted. Voters have the right to undervote if they choose to do so. Unlike an overvote, a ballot will not be canceled or disqualified as the result of an undervote. An undervote can be intentional (e.g., protest votes, tactical voting, or abstention) or unintentional (e.g., oversight on the voter’s part or confusing ballot design).
  • Vote by Mail – Oregon has a vote by mail process. Instead of using traditional polling places where voters go to cast ballots on Election Day, a ballot is mailed to each registered voter. The ballot is then voted and returned to the county election office to be counted.

    Ballots will be mailed any time between 14 to 18 days before the election. After it is voted, the ballot may be mailed or hand-delivered to the county election office. In order to be counted, the ballot must be received by the county election office or designated drop site no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day. Postmarks do not count.
  • Ballot Cures – Have you been notified that there is a problem with your ballot? Oregon allows 14 days for voters to “cure” problematic ballots. Ballots will still be counted once issues are resolved. This is one of the reasons we allow 30 days to officially certify our election results.Our elections offices used to telephone voters if they had questions, for example, when voters forgot to sign their envelopes. Now our Clerks send letters or postcards so please keep an eye on your mail. The main reason for ballots needing “curing” is forgetting to sign, or if the signature isn’t a good match.

    Ballot signature examiners use FBI verification protocols, comparing: Capitals matching, letters tail off alike, letter spacing, space between the signature & line, beginnings & endings match the signature on file.

You can sign up to track your mail ballot on your Secretary of State website.  

If you are a registered voter, your ballot will be automatically sent to you. You can call 1-866-ORE-VOTES or contact your county election office to make sure your vote was received.You will need to sign the return envelope of your ballot. Your signature will be matched with your voter registration card to verify your identity.

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