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Oregon Secretary of State visits Columbia County for tour of elections headquarters

Jeanne Atkins pledged to visit all 36 counties in Oregon before Election Day in November

Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins visited with Columbia County Courthouse staff during a scheduled trip Thursday afternoon, Oct. 6.SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins and Columbia County Clerk Betty Huser chat together in the courthouse on Thursday, Oct. 6. Huser took Atkins on a brief tour of the clerk's office where ballots are collected and counted during elections.

Atkins was escorted Thursday through the courthouse by Columbia County Clerk Betty Huser and given a tour of the office where ballots are collected, counted and tabulated during Election Night.

The county clerk has oversight of election responsibilities, including ballot collection and counting.

Although Atkins is not running for reelection, she has made a commitment to visit all 36 of Oregon's counties prior to the general election in November to educate herself, she said. Columbia marks the second to last county she will visit.

“Part of it is an education for me, so I can kind of understand what they're going through [at the county clerks' offices],” Atkins said. “Sometimes there's an Election Night kerfuffle, from there I kind of know what they're doing, so it helps.”

Atkins plans to use the knowledge she's gathered from her visits to prepare information for the next elected secretary of state.

The most interesting aspect of visiting the county offices has been seeing how different counties utilize election workers, Atkins said. The biggest county-to-county variation has been the amount of space each office has, she added.

“These folks really do the actual work on the elections,” Atkins added, referencing the clerk's courthouse staff. “They call me the chief elections officer, but these are the folks who are actually giving out ballots, and taking them in and counting them, and so however I can be of support is important to me.”