Oregon County ballot count timeline remains unclear


An election worker at the Clackamas County Elections Office shows barcodes on ballots that are bad, superior, and good Thursday, May 19, 2022, Oregon City, Oregon. Ballots with fuzzy barcodes that cannot be read by vote-counting machines will delay election results by weeks in a key U.S. House race in the United States primary. Oregon. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)


Three weeks after Oregon’s third-largest county learned that the majority of their ballots had fuzzy barcodes and were unreadable by vote-counting machines, state officials have not yet received a written plan detailing how the county will complete the count by June 13, the deadline. to certify the election results.

As frustrations continue to mount and the results of a key U.S. race hang in the balance, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan met with top Clackamas County election officials on Monday. She received a verbal update on the county’s progress, but continues to wait for a full written plan that outlines benchmarks and a timeline for how long it will take to duplicate county ballots by hand.

“I have continued to push them and will continue to push them to provide a written plan with regular benchmarks so that I, you and the public can confirm that they are on track to deliver timely results,” said Fagan at a press conference on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of ballots in Oregon’s third-largest county were printed with blurry barcodes, rendering them unreadable by vote-counting machines – a mistake that went undetected until the ballots were not already returned in the state of voting by mail. Election workers now have to manually transfer votes from those ballots to new ones that can be read in a painstaking process that also raises the possibility of duplication errors.

Clackamas County Elections Clerk Sherry Hall estimates that up to two-thirds — about 73,000 of the roughly 115,000 ballots received by the county so far — have been affected.

The debacle has angered many in Oregon, where all ballots have been cast only by mail for 23 years and lawmakers have consistently pushed to expand voter access through automatic voter registration. and long delays. Also in question is a key race in the United States in a district that includes much of Clackamas County, which spans nearly 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers), from the liberal southern suburbs of Portland to conservative rural communities on the slopes of Mount Hood.

The results of the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th congressional district – where seven-term Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate, trails in the vote behind progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner – are slowly coming in. The result could have an outsized impact in November, with the possibility that voters could flip the seat for the GOP.

In order to complete the count by June 13, nearly 200 county employees were redeployed from their normal duties to manually transfer voter intent to a new ballot that could be scanned. As of Monday, just over half of the ballots — 57,550 — had been counted, according to data provided by Clackamas County.

The problem in Clackamas County was revealed on May 3, when workers submitted the first returned ballots to the counting machine. About 70 or 80 ballots from each batch of 125 were spat out as unreadable. It was too late to print and mail new ballots, according to Hall, who did not “verify” printed ballots before they were mailed.

State election officials say they have little authority over local county election officials, who operate independently and are accountable to voters. Hall is eligible for re-election in November after having held the position since 2003.

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Sandy A. Greer