A state-ordered audit has concluded that Clackamas County's tally of results from the May 17 primary election was accurate, despite faulty printed barcodes that required hand duplication of thousands of ballots.
The special audit, which Secretary of State Shemia Fagan ordered on June 10, was in addition to the regular post-election audits required in all of Oregon's 36 counties, which conduct the elections. The regular audits turned up no problems in Multnomah and Washington counties.
Audits usually involve county election workers pulling a statistically significant random sampling of ballots in statewide races off the shelves — ballots are normally tallied by optical scanners or other machines — and counting them by hand. Then the samples are matched against the machine-tallied results to verify their accuracy.
The state order for Clackamas County was more extensive. It required workers to verify that the ballots they duplicated by hand were transcribed accurately, in addition to the standard requirements.The order specifies which batches of ballots should be recounted from six countywide races. The batches were randomly selected, as were the races.
Clackamas County completed its special audit by the state deadline of June 23.
Fagan, who lives in Clackamas County, said in a statement on Aug. 5:
"I mandated Clackamas County elections to conduct a hand recount and investigate the ballot duplication process to ensure that ballots with misprinted barcodes were counted correctly. Clackamas County can rest assured that this rigorous post-election audit verified that the May 2022 election results were 100% accurate.
"This post-election audit was a necessary step in assuring Clackamas County voters, and all Oregonians, that they can continue to trust in the integrity of Oregon elections."
The secretary of state is Oregon's chief elections officer.
County election workers did find one ballot that was duplicated incorrectly. There also were some minor discrepancies in the numbers tallied for candidates, though the overall totals of ballots cast were correct, and the discrepancies had no effect on any of the election races chosen for audit.
The contests were Clackamas County commissioner positions 2 and 5 — incumbents Paul Savas and Sonya Fischer are headed for Nov. 8 runoffs, since neither won a majority in the primary for the nonpartisan offices — plus party nominees for U.S. senator, and unopposed candidates for three nonpartisan judgeships on the Clackamas County Circuit Court, Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court. Ten races for precinct committee persons also were covered.
According to the order, the batches represent 10% of the total ballots cast. Depending on the race, between 90,000 and 98,000 ballots were cast in Clackamas County in the primary. The audits cover samplings of the total.
Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall certified primary results on June 13.
The June 10 state order laid out justification for the special audit: "In order to certify results on time, the county required hundreds of additional staff, an emergency response from the county government, added security measures, several revisions to the security plan, and increased oversight by the Secretary of State's Office."
According to county records, workers put in 6,700 hours and the clerk's budget was increased by at least $80,000 to cover the extra costs.
County commissioners have scheduled an Aug. 10 session with Hall to review her plans for conducting the Nov. 8 general election, when Hall will be up for election to a sixth four-year term. Though the clerk is an independently elected official, the office budget is subject to approval by the county budget committee, which consists of the five elected commissioners and five public appointees.
Unrelated to the primary election fiasco was another error, which involved 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. About 3,800 households in the McLoughlin and Park Place neighborhoods will receive the correct voters pamphlet in a separate mailing. That special election is Aug. 23.
Board Chairman Tootie Smith issued this statement on June 16:
"Moving forward, the county is 100% committed to minimizing the risk that an elections failure could happen again. I want to be transparent about what that means.
"I have met with the clerk and provided the county's procurement and financial support to (1) select a new ballot printer, (2) upgrade outdated equipment to insure state-of-the-art systems are in place and (3) update necessary software. It is also essential that quality control testing with printed ballots be substantially improved before future distribution.
"All of this will be expedited so that our next election in August can be carried out without interruption.
"I also expect the clerk to conduct a thorough review of her operations and decisions following the primary election, as well as her full cooperation with the audits requested by the secretary of state. I expect her findings to be presented to the full Board of Commissioners."
Link to Oregon Secretary of State-ordered special audit of Clackamas County May 17 primary election results:
NOTE: Adds link to the state-ordered special audit of Clackamas County primary election results
NOTE 2: Corrects date (June 13) of Clackamas County certification of May 17 primary election results.
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