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US election systems more secure, but voting problems persist (copy)

Tim Boyden uses the loose fall leaves in front of his business Out On A Limb Gallery in Eugene on Sunday to encourage people passing by to vote in the midterm election.

• ROSE (roz) n. One of the most beautiful of all flowers, a symbol of fragrance and loveliness. Often given as a sign of appreciation.

• RASPBERRY (raz’ber’e) n. A sharp, scornful comment, criticism or rebuke; a derisive, splatting noise, often called the Bronx cheer.

We hereby deliver:

• ROSES and RASPBERRIES to Benton County and Oregon voters in Tuesday's election. 

Here's the ROSES part: Both Benton County and Oregon likely set records for the number of ballots returned in a midterm election. The latest tally for Oregon showed just over 1.9 million ballots returned, while Benton County elections officers were flooded with 44,006 ballots.

Both numbers were substantially over results from 2014, the last midterm election. That almost certainly is due to the state's motor-voter law, which registers voters automatically when they appear at the Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for or renew a driver's license.

The question always has been whether the voters registered through the law would actually return a ballot. 

In Benton County, indications are yes: Tuesday's unofficial turnout was 75.35 percent, right in line with the county turnout in the last four midterm elections. (But the 2018 turnout is slightly less than the 76.41 percent mark notched in the 2002 election.)

In Oregon (and here's the RASPBERRIES part), it looks as if turnout has slipped a bit: As of Thursday, the state turnout was about 68.9 percent, 2 percentage points less than the 70.9 percent mark from four years ago. In fact, if that 68.9 percent mark holds this year, it will be the lowest turnout for a midterm election in Oregon this century. 

These new voters have the potential to reshape Oregon politics for generations to come. But it's still an open question as to whether they will fulfill that potential.

• ROSES to Albany's Veterans Day parade: On Saturday at 11 a.m., downtown Albany will again host the city's annual parade to honor veterans. This grand spectacle (and, really, there's no other way to describe it) will feature more than 200 entries. Thousands of spectators will line downtown's streets to take it all in. Bands will play. Candy will be thrown. Politicians, smiling and waving, will join the procession. 

Organizers say the Albany Veterans Day parade is the third-largest in the nation and the largest west of the Mississippi River, and we don't doubt it; if you're planning to attend, know that it represents a commitment of three or four hours.

But that sacrifice is trifling compared to the sacrifices that our veterans have made in service to this country. Remember that as you stand on Saturday morning to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces.

And remember this as well: We've made promises to these veterans, that we would tend to their physical and mental health after they leave the armed forces, that we would help them re-enter civilian life, that we would honor their service. We need to be sure that we follow through on all of those promises.

• ROSES to Sweet Home, as it gets ready for its party today to fete the Capitol Christmas Tree as it begins its journey to Washington, D.C.

The 80-foot-tall Noble fir was harvested last Friday from the Sweet Home Ranger District east of Cascadia. Since then, Willamette National Forest staff members have been preparing the tree for its 3,000-mile trip.

This has been a huge deal for Sweet Home and, really, for the entire mid-valley. But it's appropriate that Sweet Home should host the party that serves as the tree's sendoff, especially seeing how much work that community has put into the various events and promotions surrounding the selection of the tree. Friday's events include live music starting at noon, a street fair, a logging exhibition and a lighted Christmas parade. Most events will be held in the north parking lot of Sweet Home High School. 

Sometime after the party wraps up, the tree will start its journey by heading some 29 miles west, in what would appear to be the wrong direction from D.C. But the trip west will allow the tree to be on display in front of the Linn County Courthouse in Albany as part of the city's annual Veterans Day Parade. The tree is scheduled to make it to Washington in plenty of time for its lighting ceremony on the weekend of Dec. 5-6. You can follow its progress at the website www.trackthetree.com. (mm)

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