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Oregon Sens. Shemia Fagan, Kim Thatcher express concerns about ensuring citizens right to vote during disruptions like pandemics/wildfires

During a recent debate hosted by the Oregon City Rotary Club, Oregon Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-Happy Valley) criticized her opponent in the secretary of state's race for voting against expanding Oregon's vote-by-mail system.

Shemia Fagan and Kim ThatcherFagan's opponent in the race, Oregon Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), voted against a 2019 bill that makes it free for voters to mail their ballots to their county's election office. Thatcher also opposed the 2015 "Motor Voter" bill that automatically registers Oregon citizens to vote through the DMV.

Fagan praised other states where vote-by-mail expansions have since been a bipartisan effort.

"Sadly, here in Oregon, it was a party-line vote," Fagan said.

Fagan was responding to a question about what each candidate did as a legislator to help people vote. Thatcher's response to the same question cited her participation in a steering committee that helped incorporate federal regulations in Oregon's voting practices.

"We are making sure people are franchised and not having their votes canceled out by people who are voting illegally from other states in two elections or something like that," Thatcher said.

Both candidates expressed their concerns about ensuring Oregon citizens the right to vote during disruptions like pandemics and wildfires. Thatcher and Fagan were also in agreement during the Sept. 16 debate about the importance of the secretary of state's auditing function.

Clackamas County Treasurer Brian Nava, who worked in the secretary of state's Audits Division for nearly 12 years, noted during the Sept. 16 online forum that the validity and safety of the vote-by-mail system is being questioned. He asked both Fagan and Thatcher how they would ensure to the public that this system is airtight and does not contain fraud.

This story has been updated from its original version online to correct the spelling of Keizer, Oregon.

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