Secretary of State Dennis Richardson promised East Multnomah County leaders he will keep Oregon's elections "transparent" and "secure" as he works to restore trust in the ballot box.
"It's an honor for me to be here with you. Those of you who didn't vote for me — it's OK — I managed to squeak in," Richardson wisecracked. "I'll represent you all anyway."
The 68-year-old Republican politician was in fine form during an informal lunchtime meeting with area merchants on Wednesday, April 11, at Skyland Pub, 3175 S. Troutdale Road.
As Oregon's top elections official and overseer of 72 auditors, the Secretary of State is often described as a watchdog position. That role is only heightened by Richardson's status as the lone Republican within Oregon's executive branch.
Richardson chowed down on a chef's salad and a cup of soup before making the rounds with members of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce. He also gave a short speech, undeterred by the plink of pool balls and a patron playing a lively game of Skee-Ball in the background.
While Oregon was the first state to adopt the vote-by-mail system, Richardson said the title is somewhat of a misnomer. About 60 percent of Oregonians are now dropping off their paper ballots, not mailing them.
"There are a number of states that jumped right into computer (voting) that are now going back to paper, because you can't hack paper," he commented. "To me, voting should be a nonpartisan issue."
Earlier in the day, Richardson met with Kim Hyatt, dean of health and physical education at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The educational institution hopes to convince a British track team to run laps at MHCC prior to an international track and field event at the University of Oregon in 2020.
The event also was an opportunity for local business owners to meet one of their elected officials.
Brianna Bigham, center manager for two Meals on Wheels facilities in Rockwood and Gresham, said she had met Richardson once before while attending the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce's leadership academy.
"I really respected some of the things he said then, so I wanted to follow up," she explained.
"I see his picture all the time but I never had an opportunity to meet him," added Carlie Moore, the owner of Iron Horse LLC, a pipeline servicing and equipment rental company in Fairview.
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