Alleged ballot fraud demands emergency meeting
Officials decide how to proceed while bolstering voters confidence in the process
Clackamas County Elections Office Manager Steve Kindred immediately relieved a worker of her post after she was detected manipulating a ballot on Wednesday, Oct. 31, said county attorney Stephen Madkour.
Oregon State Police monitor the office all hours of the day, but it was still only a rumor on Monday that more than one incomplete ballot was allegedly filled in for Republican candidates. The two highly suspect ballots will not be counted.
Clackamas County commissioners discussed these facts Monday, Nov. 5, in an apparent attempt to restore confidence in the democratic process. Saying she was extremely concerned about the allegations of ballot tampering, County Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan called the emergency meeting to provide information about the potential extent of the problem.
Lehan largely kept the discussion away from the ongoing criminal investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice and expressed a high level of confidence in the agency's work. There was no representative from the Elections Office at the meeting, although Madkour said that the system works and safeguards are in place.
We want people to get those ballots out and not be discouraged, Lehan said.
In a written statement to the commission, County Clerk Sherry Hall said any ballot tampering would be inexcusable, but she wouldnt be releasing any information about the elections worker, who is no longer working at the elections office while the investigation proceeds.
Lehan was also concerned that the Elections Office called the West Linn Police Department Friday, Nov. 2, to stop campaign volunteers from collecting ballots in the area. Lehan had asked a list of 19 questions to provide more details about the alleged election fraud, but officials werent able to answer all of them.
County Attorney Scot Sideras added that the Elections Office wouldnt begin to count the ballots until election night, so there would be time to identify any other irregularities.
The Oregon Secretary of States Office has set up monitors of the process that necessarily has elections workers with writing implements to log the ballots manually. Sideras said that, given the nature of the allegations, the Elections Office may set up an airport-style security system to prevent election workers from bringing in their own pens or pencils in briefcases or purses.
Elections workers are now working with fluorescent pens, which cannot be read by the counting machines, said Tim Heider, public affairs manager for Clackamas County.
Ballot envelopes are opened at a table with observers registered with both major political parties, Heider said, and the room has a space for the public to observe the process.
This is the first time such an incident has occurred, Sideras said. We always thought that people would be watching each other it never occurred to us that we needed a third level of protection.
Commissioner Jim Bernard said he was concerned that the public doesnt know the name of the alleged fraudster and encouraged the DOJ to release the name as soon as possible.
Reporter Jim Hart contributed to this article.