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County Elections Office policies raise red flags

After spending hours going through video footage and other public records from the Clackamas County Elections office, Our Oregon has found a number of troubling facts that continue to call into question the ability of Clerk Sherry Hall’s office to administer elections.

Among the findings: A lack of meaningful video coverage of ballot processing and other questionable management decisions.

In late October, Our Oregon filed a public records request with the Clackamas County Elections office for copies of all of the surveillance video records from the areas where ballots are processed.

We filed this request because of the long record of alarming elections irregularities and partisan statements made by County Clerk Sherry Hall. Frankly, we didn’t have any confidence in the office—under Hall’s leadership—to administer the election fairly and competently.

Our concerns turned out to be well grounded. Just a few days before ballots were due in the November election, it came out that Clackamas County Elections worker Deanna Swenson had allegedly been tampering with ballots, filling in votes for Republican candidates on ballots that were only partially completed.

We’ve spent hours pouring through the videotapes that we received through the public records request. Although there’s no coverage of Swenson’s alleged misdeeds, we’ve pieced together footage that we believe shows the aftermath of incident.

Here are our findings:

n No camera coverage in ballot processing area. Despite having 10 security cameras installed in and around the Clackamas County Elections office, there is not a single camera covering the main ballot processing area. This is the room where dozens of temporary employees open and process ballots, making it the most critical area for supervision.

This is, unsurprisingly, the room where Deanna Swenson was caught allegedly tampering with ballots. She was caught by an observant co-worker. There is no security camera footage of Swenson’s work area—or the work area of any other ballot-processing employee.

n There are two separate cameras on the “observer” area (basically a hallway outside the processing room), one on the front door and three in the parking lot, but no coverage of the one location where workers come directly into contact with opened ballots. This is a major failure of Hall’s office to secure the integrity of the ballots that come into the building.

n No sign-in/sign-out policies for the ballot processing room. We asked Clackamas County for their written sign-in/sign-out policies for the ballot processing room—the one place in the building where temporary workers have the most access to ballots. They don’t have any.

n Questionable management decisions. When ballots need to be collected from drop boxes around the county, workers are sent out in pairs to ensure the integrity of the ballots. But, in at least two instances, Clackamas Elections managers sent out couples that appear to be married, according to our review of public records. This is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which being that the spouses would not be compelled to testify against each other if there was a charge of ballot tampering during ballot collection.

In short, Sherry Hall’s elections office suffers from a serious lack of oversight and security. Despite amassing an embarrassing track record of election scandals over the past few years, Hall appears to have done nothing to assure the voters of Clackamas County—or the rest of the state—that her office can fairly and effectively run an election.

Given the increasing political importance that Clackamas County has in statewide races, voters in every corner of Oregon should be alarmed.

Scott Moore is a spokesman for Our Oregon, a nonprofit that advocates on statewide political issues.



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