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County clerk confirmed with officials the connection violates no election laws

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - Jefferson County Clerk Kate Zemke tests the vote counting machine with a stack of test ballots. Jason Pollock's name is on the ballot in the sheriff's race. His ex-wife, Keli Pollock, works in the clerk's office. Zemke took efforts to confirm having Pollock work with the ballots does not violate election laws.

Several people have called Jefferson County Clerk, Kate Zemke, concerned about her employee taking part in processing the ballots for the May 17 election.

Keli Pollock, who works in the clerk's office, is the ex-wife of Jason Pollock, who is challenging incumbent Sheriff Marc Heckathorn in the May primary.

"I confirmed with County Counsel (Alexa Gassner) that there wasn't a violation here," said Zemke.

Zemke consulted the Secretary of State's office but has not heard back. The Oregon Association of County Clerks assured Zemke that Pollock's position poses no violation of election law.

"Keli does handle the ballots," said Zemke. "She date stamps them, checks for signatures and scans the code on the ballot."

All of this takes place before anyone opens the ballots. After scanning, the ballots go into a secured room.

Friday, May 13, the election board will open the ballots and prepare them to go through the machine.

"I operate the machine," said Zemke. "Keli is not there at all."

(On advice of counsel, Keli Pollock will not speak with the media.)

Only the election board, made up of eight citizens, opens the ballots. Zemke tried to arrive at a political balance for the board with three Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent. Each member is matched with a member of another party.

"When we are adjudicating a ballot," said Zemke, "I have both parties working together to ascertain the voter intent."

People are welcome to come and observe the counting process. Zemke says about eight people have called to let her know they'll come to observe.

For the first time, this year people will be able to watch the election night counting from home via Zoom. People will be able to click on the meeting link on the home page of the Jefferson County Oregon website home page. (People must first set up a Zoom account, which are free at zoom.us.)

"I don't know whether we'll have any viewers," said Zemke. "I bought a white board and will write messages letting viewers know what the election board is doing at the moment."

To be counted, ballots must be in an official drop box, received by the Elections office, or postmarked by the United States Postal Service by 8 p.m. Election Day.

Initial election results will be available soon after voting closes at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 and updated at least once between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Certified election results will be posted by 5 p.m. Monday, June 13, 27 days after the election.


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