Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson today proposed fining Defend Oregon, the campaign arm of the public-employee union backed non-profit Our Oregon $94,750.

The proposed fine comes after Defend Oregon admitted that it had collected 97 ballots for the November 2018 general election but failed to turn the ballots in, as required by law.

Richardson, the state's top elections official, opened an investigation in November. His elections director, Steve Trout, found that one of the 97 ballots was for the May primary and therefore not valid in November.

Defend Oregon admitted in its response to Trout's inquiry that the ballots were collected election night but then not turned in due to a "miscommunication."

Elections law provides a schedule of fines: $250 for the first ballot not turned in; $500 for the next ballot; and, $1,000 thereafter. Hence the total proposed fine of $94,500.

Defend Oregon has 20 days to decide whether it wants to fight the penalty in a contested case hearing.

Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for Defend Oregon says the organization apologized to all the affected voters and has changed its protocols to avoid similar incidents in the future.

"From the very beginning, Defend Oregon has taken responsibility for the mistake during the November 2018 election that resulted in some ballots being turned in late. Throughout the entire process, we have fully cooperated with the Secretary of State's investigation into the matter," Driessen said in a statement.
"Increasing access to the ballot is central to our work at Defend Oregon, so we take this mistake very seriously."