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Boring says no to village – or does it?

'Close' election calls for the validation of 69 provisional ballots
by: Marcus Hathcock, Kirstin Greene of consulting firm Cogan Owens Cogan, who administered Boring's town hall vote, writes the preliminary results of the village election Monday night.

The residents, property owners and business owners of the unincorporated community of Boring apparently have voted down the proposed village quasi-government there.

Of the 634 ballots that were cast during three voting periods, initial counts show that 302 are in favor of creating the Clackamas County-sanctioned village and its bylaws, and 332 are against it.

Staff from county consulting firm Cogan Owens Cogan administered the election and counted the votes with help from members of the League of Women Voters of Clackamas County.

The county's 'Complete Communities' ordinance allows unincorporated areas to organize into villages and hamlets. These entities act as an advisory board to the county commissioners, setting community priorities and acting as the area's official voice.

Boring's vote Monday, July 24, was the third and final opportunity area residents had to cast ballots on whether to form the village. The turnout was by far the largest in the short history of 'Complete Communities,' with more than six times the number of votes cast than in the Beavercreek hamlet.

'It's wonderful we got this many people engaged,' said Les Otto, chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization and a chief petitioner of the village. 'It's pretty darn close. I don't know if this gives us a clear message one way or another. There's no mandate here.'

Proponents of the village said the new designation would give the community a stronger voice in the face of growth challenges. Opponents campaigned that the process to develop the village is flawed and that the chief petitioners didn't involve the majority of 'Borigonians' in their plans.

The 30-vote margin of defeat has prompted village supporters to ask for the verification of some of the ballots, a process that could take weeks.

Provisional ballots - which were given to voters unable to provide proof of residency within the proposed village boundaries - represent nearly 11 percent of the total votes cast. The 69 specially marked ballots - which were included in the first count - could determine the outcome of the election.

The provisional voters gave election officials their telephone numbers in case verification became necessary. Staff from Cogan Owens Cogan will contact those voters this week.

According to consultant Kirstin Greene, votes would be removed from the official count if election personnel aren't able to reach the voter or if the given phone number is invalid.

Greene said there's no telling how long it would be before the official results are ascertained. 'We really don't know how long that will take,' Greene said. 'It may be a couple of weeks.'

Village backers, although surprised by the initial results of the election, say they aren't disappointed - yet. 'We're going to take a couple days and see how everything shapes up,' Otto said. 'We want to sit down and figure out where to go from here.'

Village opponents decried the decision to verify the provisional ballots, claiming that the vote isn't close enough to justify the action.

'They (Clackamas County) never publicized what a close vote would be and never laid out a process to count the provisional ballots,' said Wayne Strickland, a vocal opponent of the village and vice chairman of the not-for-profit group Concerned Citizens of the Boring CPO. 'This is not a close vote. The whole category seems bogus to me.'

Strickland said the Concerned Citizens are 'cautiously optimistic' about the preliminary 'no' vote results, but 'There's a definite concern about the provisional ballots and defining - after the fact - what's close and not close seems problematic to me. There would be far more (provisional ballots) that would vote against the village than for it.'

Moving forward

Despite the uncertainty of the village's future, election officials released the names of the seven highest vote-getters for the village board of directors.

Kathy Bigelow, Boring Community Planning Organization secretary/treasurer, received the most votes, followed by CPO Vice Chairman Steve Wiege, CPO board member Jack Valberg, Les Otto, village opponent Gary Jensen, John Lee and Wayne Strickland.

Otto said that regardless of what happens with the village, it's important for the would-be board members to sit down and discuss what the community should do next.

If the village fails, 'I don't think it means that we shut down and it's all over,' Otto said. 'We need to get the folks together who ran for the board and say, 'This is where the vote is - where do we go from here?'

The chief petitioners must make a final presentation to county commissioners in September. At that meeting, commissioners either will form the village - depending on the final election results - or they will deny formation and discuss the next steps for Boring.

Leaders of Concerned Citizens of the Boring CPO will meet with attorney William Cloran this week to discuss their next steps. The citizens group has threatened a class action lawsuit against Clackamas County and the chief petitioners of the village, claiming that voters' rights have been violated throughout the formation process and that the village itself is illegal.

Strickland said the handling of the provisional ballots could add to the group's case against the county. 'Obviously, should the village go forward, this would be additional information that would contribute to making a case that the vote was not handled well. We would want to challenge provisional ballots that were not allowed.'

Even if the village ultimately fails, Strickland said the Concerned Citizens group may file the lawsuit anyway. 'We haven't decided yet. In some ways this is bigger than just Boring; it's at the heart of whether Complete Communities is a legally defensible ordinance or not. Another group down the road could encounter the same problems.'