Oregon’s pioneer heritage is much older than the state itself, but has not been diminished by the passage of time. Since the Corps of Volunteers for North Western Discovery, led by US Army Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark of the Legion of the United States, first crossed into Oregon on September 13th, 1804, hundreds of thousands of pioneers moved west to find their piece of heaven and make their mark in the world.
Oregon’s military heritage is as old as the west. Military forts led the westward expansion of the nation, and Oregon’s first permanent military camp was established at Fort Stevens, guarding the mouth of the Columbia River during the Civil War. Today, Oregon is proud that more than 16,000 of its finest men and women proudly serve their country around the world.
Oregon’s pioneering spirit is a fundamental part of our state government as well. On November 7, 2000, Oregon voted to conduct all future elections by mail. Vote-by-mail allows military voters the opportunity to participate in elections in the same manner as every other voter, and Oregon has enjoyed higher than average voter participation from both military and domestic voters ever since. And because we already mailed our ballots, Oregon was uniquely positioned to implement improvements afforded by the UOCAVA and MOVE acts.
As technology has improved, Oregon has moved to improve access for military voters even more. Oregon pioneered the use of tablet computers, Android devices, and iPads for voters with disabilities. Those same technologies allowed us to develop an on-line ballot marking tool for use by our military voters.
We allowed for Fax return of military ballots when that was the state-of-the-art technology. But now that we conduct much of our business by computer, our military voters can use any web-enabled device to register to vote, find important election information, download their ballot, and check the status of their ballot by visiting Oregonvotes.gov. In 2011, we passed a new statute allowing military voters to return their ballots and signatures by e-mail, making voting for Oregon’s military heroes even easier from the many remote areas where they serve.
Oregonians will continue to serve—and Oregon will continue to serve our heroes by applying new and improving technologies to allow them every opportunity to make their voices heard.