The Clackamas County elections office is embroiled in another controversy tonight after West Linn Police stopped two canvassers for Oregon House Democrats from collecting ballots door-to-door.
The canvassers were not arrested, but the officers made them return the one ballot they had collected, according to both West Linn Police and the House Democrats.
A West Linn police spokesman says the officers were dispatched around 5:30 pm today after the shift supervisor received a call from the Clackamas County elections office saying someone had complained.
"It was the elections department that was saying that they [the volunteers] weren't authorized," says West Linn Police Sgt. David Kempas.
Oregon statute does not outlaw independent collection of vote-by-mail ballots, though it does say that any person collecting ballots must display a sign saying it is not an official drop site.
"I don't know if they were displaying a sign like that," says Kempas. "The officers at the scene made the determination that they were in violation."
Oregon House Democrats spokesman Jared Mason-Gere says the canvassers with FuturePAC, the House Democrats' political action committee, were carrying the required sign.
"We work really hard to make sure that people who want to vote are able to vote," Mason-Gere says. "The potential for people to try and dissuade somebody from turning in their ballots, or otherwise tamping down voter participation, is very disturbing."
The incident comes less than 24 hours after a WW first reported that the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating an allegation that a Clackamas County elections worker filled in a straight Republican ticket on ballots where preferences had been left blank by voters.
Clackamas County Elections Clerk Sherry Hall could not be reached tonight.
Democratic Party of Oregon executive director Trent Lutz says he sees a pattern.
"Clackamas County is going out and telling people that they can't collect ballots," Lutz says. "The question is whether this is voter suppression. The Clackamas County clerk seems to have a certain level of incompetence."
At least one Republican legislator saw it differently. Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn) posted on her Facebook page tonight that the canvassers were breaking the law.
"There's no room in Oregon for Chicago-style politics of people coming to your door to get you to hand over your ballot," Parrish posted. "Not acceptable. If the law isn't clear enough for House Democrats, at least use some ethics already. Your vote is private...turn your ballot in at a ballot drop box only!!!"