Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall said today she couldn’t provide a detailed timeline to the Oregon secretary of state on when all votes will be counted in the bungled election that leaves the fate of a U.S. congressman, among others, in the balance.
Asked at a press conference if she would have the timeline by Monday, Hall said: “Possibly. There’s workers back there now.”
Nor did Hall have any response when asked why she didn’t act with greater urgency when she discovered two weeks ago that some of the ballots had blurry bar codes and couldn’t be read by counting machines. Now, the marks on those ballots must be transferred by hand to new, machine-readable ballots and put through the machines.
“I didn’t think of it,” Hall said. “There were a lot of things going on.”
A back-of-the-envelope estimate by WW, using data provided by Clackamas County, shows that Hall’s office could get the votes duplicated and read in about four days.
Among the races whose outcomes have been delayed by the errors in Clackamas County is the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District, where incumbent Kurt Schrader trails Jamie McLeod-Skinner 60% to 39%. Clackamas is Schrader’s home county, and he leads McLeod-Skinner there by 55% to 44%, but that lead is based on just 4,069 votes counted.
Earlier this morning, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan intensified her criticism of Hall’s office. “Unfortunately, Clackamas County Elections did not respond to this crisis with appropriate urgency during the past two weeks,” Fagan said in a statement. “Voters and candidates deserve timely and predictable results, which we have not seen so far.”
Hall’s problems compounded yesterday when the McLeod-Skinner campaign alleged to Fagan that the Clackamas County Elections Office violated state law by allowing a representative of the Schrader campaign into the office an hour before allowing in an observer from his challenger’s campaign.
The complaint, obtained by WW from the Secretary of State’s Office, says an observer for the Schrader campaign was allowed into the building at 7:30 am Thursday—an hour before the McLeod-Skinner campaign observer was allowed into the observation room.
Today, Hall said she was seeking the logbooks to determine whether someone got in early. She said the front door to the building doesn’t open until 8:30 am but that it was possible that an employee badged in earlier and let someone in.
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,” Hall said. “There’s card badge access required at every door. And not all staff have all access.”
Hall couldn’t say who has access to the “Hart Room,” as it’s known, where the actual vote tally takes place. It’s called the Hart Room because that’s where voting machines made by Hart InterCivic do the counting.
“I have access, and the manager has access, and I think one other person,” Hall said. “I’m trying to think of what her title is. She’s someone who puts the voter pamphlet together. She updates our website.”
Clackamas County has provided 200 employees to count ballots, a county spokeswoman said. There are 120 people there today, working two shifts of six hours each. They will work over the weekend.
Longtime political consultant Len Bergstein said he was struck by the dual disasters of the ballots being misprinted and the way Hall’s office managed the situation.
“This is unprecedented,” said Bergstein. “It’s on a scale we’ve never seen in Oregon, and it’s a master class in how important the management of elections is.”