Recalls now up to the voters
On Jan. 18, the 25,061 voters living within the Newberg School District will decide if two members of its board of directors will continue in their duties or be cast out and replaced.
The organizations calling for the recall of chairman Dave Brown and vice-chairman Brian Shannon submitted sufficient petition signatures in December to place the recalls on a special election ballot this month.
"Yes, they both did meet the minimum," said Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen. "Actually, both met the minimum with their first submittals and there was a second submittal for both that we didn't need to process."
The chief petitioner in the recall effort, Newberg resident Zach Goff, has said Brown and Shannon should be recalled for myriad reasons, including championing a ban of political symbols in school classrooms, the hiring of supplemental legal counsel, potential violations of state public meetings laws and misusing district funds.
Once the petition signatures were submitted and verified as being from registered voters, Van Bergen filled in Goff and the two board members on what would transpire next. The county clerk notified the two counties that have some students enrolled in the district — Washington and Clackamas — then notified the Oregon Secretary of State of plans for the recall vote.
"We met with the other two counties and determined the election date that would work best for everyone," he said. "We also had to meet with those two counties and the secretary of state's team to make sure we could administer the election without jeopardizing the redistricting work being done."
Van Bergen explained that "recalls happen on their own schedule" and as special elections they are not tied to this year's primary or general elections in May and November, respectively. He added that the election date is roughly 35 days from the time the signatures are verified and after that officer has either resigned or submitted a "statement of justification" explaining why they will not resign. Neither Brown nor Shannon have indicated they will resign from office.
Ballots for registered voters who are military personnel, overseas or out of state were mailed on Dec. 29. Local ballots were mailed on Jan. 5. Yamhill County mailed roughly 26,000 ballots, Van Bergen said, with Clackamas County distributing around 600 ballots and Clackamas County 300 ballots.
"Most people should have their ballot by Monday (Jan. 10)," he added. "If an active registered voter within the Newberg School District does not have their ballot by (Jan. 12), they need to contact us immediately."
While a recall ballot isn't accompanied by a voters' pamphlet as in other elections, the ballot does include a statement from the chief petitioner and the public officer under recall, Van Bergen explained.
"We do not publish a voters' pamphlet for recalls," he said. "The time frame is simply too short. We do have a small flyer being inserted with the ballots to remind voters of the basic voting information and it has the list of which drop sites we have open."
Van Bergen said the cost of his office holding the recall elections, which will be reimbursed by the school district, will not be determined until after the election.
"Those can't be known in advance," he said. "I can estimate that the costs will be from $65,000 to $80,000, but that's super rough."
Once the ballots are cast, the count will proceed just as it does during any primary or general election. Van Bergen said the time frame for finishing the count should be similar to that of November's general election — a few days.
There will be one wrinkle to this election not seen before, however.
"This will be the first election in Oregon where postmarks will count," Van Bergen said. "One of the many legislative changes that took effect (Jan. 1) is the fact that if you mail your ballot in time for it to receive a postmark on election day or sooner, and the post office gets that ballot to us by the seventh day after election day, then we are to accept that ballot as being "timely."
The new law also pushes all post-election deadlines out a week.
"Last year a voter had 14 days to cure their signature problems, now you have 21 days," he said. "So, we will have nearly everything done on election night as normal, but we won't have final numbers until 22 days later, at the earliest."
Van Bergen said much of this is new territory for him.
"I've been serving for nine years and it's been nearly 12 years since we had the last recall in Yamhill County," he said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.