Update: Clackamas County Clerk reverses delay update
Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall, facing public pressure, reversed course on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the elections office would release another set of primary election results at 8 p.m. and again at 10:30 p.m.
Hall's initial plan had been to release results of this general election shortly after 8 p.m. but delay further updates until 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9.
By contrast, neighboring Multnomah County said it will post results on its elections website at 8 p.m. on election night and update the county's tallies every two hours through 2 a.m. Wednesday. Additional updates then will be posted at 6 each night thereafter.
Earlier in the day, the Oregon secretary of state's office declined to interfere with a decision by a Clackamas County elections official that would have resulted in a 22-hour delay in updating Tuesday's election count.
The unprecedented delay was Hall's decision, according Clackamas County spokesperson Kimberly Webb, who said she did not know the reason for the delay.
Hall is a candidate on this ballot, seeking reelection.
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said Hall's decision does not violate any state laws or election rules.
"We encourage counties to provide timely information to the public," according to the secretary of state's office in a release early Tuesday. "This year we issued a rule requiring all counties to post their reporting schedules online prior to Election Day so the public would know what to expect.
"All 36 counties are independent and can make their own reporting schedules. Clackamas's schedule complies with the rule.
"Media outlets often project results on election night, but the official results will not be certified by the county until Dec. 5 Elections officials prioritize accuracy and transparency when processing ballots, not speed."
This is the first primary election since Oregon changed the rules, allowing ballots mailed by election day to be counted. All counties must complete their initial counts by Nov. 16, eight days after the election, and certify results by Dec. 5.
The Clackamas County delay could see several key races up in the air, including the three-way race for governor, nationally watched congressional race and two important races for the Clackamas County Commission, among others.
Hall had been criticized for mishandling elections earlier this year. The Clackamas County Elections Office became the center of controversy in May when defective barcodes on more than 300,000 ballots caused a significant delay in primary results. Hall, who knew of the error in advance, declined assistance in hand-duplicating the ballots from state election officials.
The delay saw protestors gather outside while election workers counted ballots by hand until the results were finalized 10 days later.
In August, thousands of voters in Oregon City received their mayoral election ballots with an error in the Voters' Pamphlet for a different election being held for Oak Lodge Water Services District residents, who live across the Clackamas River and several miles to the north. The elections error affected an estimated 3,800 households in a large swath of Oregon City.
West Linn resident Catherine McMullen, a certified elections official, is on this ballot, hoping to unseat Hall. McMullen on Tuesday said she was concerned about Hall's decision to delay releasing significant election results until Wednesday. If elected, McMullen is promising timely and accurate election results.
"Sherry Hall is doing the minimum that's required, but voters expect more than the minimum. Trying to be responsive to voters is a priority to me since they'd be the ones who have elected me, and they're the ones I'd be representing," McMullen said.
Oregon City Mayor Denyse McGriff, whose Voters' Pamphlet statement was affected by the August error, is supporting McMullen. McGriff's said Hall's decision to delay the release of election results has solidified support for McMullen.
"I'm extremely disappointed that the county clerk's office has chosen this path, which is a disservice not only people who are running for office, but also the community at large. Why can't we follow the protocols we've followed in the past?" McGriff said.
Oregon Public Broadcasting, a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, contributed to this report. Tribune reporter Jim Redden and Clackamas Review Editor Raymond Rendleman contributed to this report.
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