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Few facts emerge about criminal investigation

Clackamas County Elections Office Manager Steve Kindred immediately “relieved” a worker of her post after she was “detected manipulating” a ballot on Wednesday, said county attorney Stephen Madkour.

Oregon State Police are monitoring the elections 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 on the eve of this week’s election 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 on the morning of Nov. 5 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 their work. There was no representative from the Elections Office at the meeting, although Madkour said that “the system works” and safeguards were 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 wouldn’t be releasing any information about the elections worker.

Lehan was also concerned that the Elections Office called the West Linn Police Department on 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 weren’t able to answer all of them.

County Attorney Scot Sideras added that the Elections Office wouldn’t begin to count the ballots until election night, so there would be time to identify any other irregularities.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s 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.

“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 doesn’t know the name of the alleged fraudster and encouraged the DOJ to release the name “as soon as possible.”

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