On Wednesday, the Oregon Secretary of State's office announced it was opening an investigation into the circumstances of an unnamed group turning in 97 ballots after the 8 pm deadline on Nov. 6.
The elections division said it had been notified by Multnomah County elections that two people showed up on Nov. 7, the day after ballots were due, with the ballots in a box. That is a likely violation of elections law, noted the announcement from Deb Royal, chief of staff to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, Oregon's top elections official.
"ORS 254.470(6) provides that if a person returns a ballot for an elector, they must deposit the ballot at the county elections office, or an official dropbox, not later than two days after receiving the ballot or by 8:00pm on Election Day, whichever comes first," Royal said in a statement.
The division did not identify responsible party in its announcement but today, Defend Oregon, a political action committee admitted it had failed to turn in some ballots.
Defend Oregon is the left-leaning PAC that that defeated four conservative ballot measures (103, 104, 105 and 106) on Nov. 6.
"We take voting and the right to vote very seriously at Defend Oregon, and so we were disheartened to learn that late on Election Day campaign staff failed to follow established ballot collection protocol, said a spokeswoman for the group, Katherine Driessen. "Due to this lapse, ballots entrusted to us by Oregonians were not delivered to a dropbox on Election Day.
"When Defend Oregon learned of the mistake the next day, we immediately turned the ballots in to officials at the Multnomah County Elections office. We are deeply sorry for this mistake and breach of trust," said Driessen.
"Ballot collection helps ensure that Oregonians who might otherwise face obstacles to turning in their ballots are able to fully participate in our democracy. Defend Oregon has rigid protocols in place to ensure safe collection and delivery of ballots. But unfortunately that protocol was not followed on Election Day."
That apology may not be enough to forestall an investigation of why the ballots were late or whether there were other irregularities. Richardson, a Republican, has made election integrity a priority in his two years in office. This incident could give his team a rare opportunity to peek under the hood of a very effective component of the Democratic Party machine.