Loretta Smith, a Democratic candidate in Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District, called on Gov. Kate Brown this afternoon to insert herself in the Clackamas County elections mess. (The 6th District includes nearly 10,000 Democratic Party voters in Clackamas County and about 7,000 Republicans.)
Smith, a former two-term Multnomah County commissioner, made her case to Brown in a letter this afternoon.
“Like other candidates, we have been publicly informed that the next update will be made available Wednesday, May 25, 2022,” Smith wrote to Brown. “This is not acceptable because a democratic process is supposed to be open, transparent, and accountable to the people.”
Smith’s point is not that greater scrutiny and urgency could change the outcome in her favor—state Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego) holds a commanding lead in the race—but rather that continued delay and the unusual process Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall is following to hand-duplicate misprinted ballots runs the risk of undermining public confidence in Oregon’s vote-by-mail system at a time when supporters of former President Donald Trump are trying generally to sully the integrity of voting by mail and the entire electoral system.
“There are doubts and questions being raised about the fate of American democracy,” Smith continued. “In Oregon, it is of the utmost importance that neither candidates for public office nor voters be held in suspense indefinitely following an election.”
As WW has reported, Clackamas County officials have assigned 200 county employees to help with the process of duplicating ballots so they can then be machine counted, but after releasing a small batch of results this morning, Hall has said she won’t be releasing further results until May 25 and may take right up until the certification deadline of June 13 to finish the count. That leaves not only a congressional and legislative races hanging in the balance but a number of local races as well.
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan is the state’s top elections officer. She has criticized Hall for her failure to take steps ahead of the election to deal with ballots she knew weeks ago were unreadable by machines. But Smith wants Brown (who also served as secretary of state before becoming governor) to take charge.
“Governor, I appeal to you at this time because you have the authority to remedy this horrific voter integrity crisis,” Smith wrote. “Please invoke a state of emergency to intervene over the Clackamas County Elections Office for failure to perform their duties consistent with our state’s constitution.”
Brown’s spokesman Charles Boyle says the governor is paying close attention but doesn’t believe emergency action is warranted.
“The governor believes all ballots in Clackamas County should be counted quickly and accurately, with a transparent public process,” Boyle says. “Our office is in close communication with the secretary of state’s office. The governor has full faith in the secretary of state’s office to oversee Oregon’s elections process and ensure that process remains free, fair and open, and that every vote is counted. With Clackamas County taking new steps this week to devote additional staff and resources to the vote counting process, it’s not clear at this time that an emergency declaration would be needed or bring new resources to bear. However, we continue to monitor the situation.”
Meanwhile, new documents provided by the Clackamas County Elections Office confirm what Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s campaign alleged Thursday: that an elections observer from the Kurt Schrader campaign was allowed into county offices more than one hour before the McLeod-Skinner campaign observer was permitted entry.
A log sheet provided by the elections office in response to a records request from WW shows a Schrader campaign representative signed in at 7:30 am Thursday, May 19. The office officially opened at 8:30 am—and a McLeod-Skinner observer signed in eight minutes later.
In a press conference today, Hall said she was confident that no unauthorized person got into the rooms where the county is counting votes since those are protected by additional badge readers. “The whole office is like a maze,” she added.
Rachel Monahan contributed reporting to this story.