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State probes Clackamas County election allegation

UPDATE: Oregon City group says secretary of state should take over local elections office


Supporters of Oregon City’s urban renewal ballot measure called Friday evening on the secretary of state’s office to take control of Clackamas County’s elections until a state investigation is completed into possible ballot tampering.

Leaders of Your Right to Vote PAC joined calls for the state to assume the conducting of the Nov. 6 general election in Clackamas County. The political action committee supports Oregon City’s Ballot Measure 3-407, which would require a vote on any future urban renewal bonds in the city.

“The sanctity of voting is what we are all about,” said Kevin Hunt, a Your Right to Vote director who was a chief petitioner for the Oregon City measure.

Hunt said the measure has generated intense concern among certain interests who oppose the people’s right to vote on urban renewal public debt the way other kinds of bonded public debt are subject to popular vote.

“It is not uncommon for there to be substantial numbers of undervotes (ballots left blank on some measures) on ballot measures, especially local ones,” Hunt said. “Until the attorney general’s investigation is completed and a suspect is held to answer, we must assume that Measure 3-407 may be a target of the alleged tampering.”

Clackamas County’s Elections Office is under criminal investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for possible tampering of ballots in the current races to favor registered Republicans.

Days before the election, the alleged felony violations of Oregon’s elections laws involved a temporary county elections employee tampering with cast ballots, said Jeff Manning, spokesman for the Department of Justice, who couldn’t confirm the specifics of the allegations.

“We’re throwing a lot resources at this, and this is a high priority for us,” Manning said.

Clackamas County Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan’s campaign is considering legal action because of the rumored partisan nature of the allegations. Lehan is concerned that a large percentage of people who voted for neither candidate in commission races before mailing in their ballots ended up counting for her opponent, John Ludlow.

“It throws the entire election result in doubt at this point,” said Chris Edmonds, campaign manager for Lehan. “We don’t whether this was part of a larger and more coordinated effort in the elections office.”

On Wednesday, Manning said that the investigation kicked into high gear. Clackamas County Elections itself, which Manning said is cooperating with the investigation, alerted the Secretary of State’s Office, and the state’s Election Division turned it over to the DOJ.

“Criminal investigations take time, they’re painstaking, and they’re usually not cleared up in a few days,” Manning said.

The DOJ isn’t releasing name the female suspect “to maintain the integrity” of the investigation.