Our View: Time to restore trust in Clackamas County elections
Clackamas County's elections clerk, who has made a litany of ballot mistakes in her 20-year tenure, should be removed from office.
Calling for the county's clerk to resign or be recalled after her latest disastrous antics was an easy decision for Pamplin Media Group, since it was a decision that we've already made — repeatedly. Our editorial board called for her removal in 2010, after Sherry Hall's office cost the county an extra $120,000 by misprinting ballots to include a race that was supposed to be in a different election.
We called for Hall's removal from office again in 2012, when one of her employees was caught ballot tampering, filling in blank ovals for Republican candidates. This employee was eventually sentenced to 90 days in jail for the crime.
Calling for the ousting of the clerk is even easier this time around, with the availability of a qualified candidate to replace Hall on the November ballot. Catherine McMullen is a West Linn resident and employee of the Multnomah County Elections Office. McMullen, who holds certifications in elections management, shouldn't be forced to wait until November to be Hall's replacement.
Hall should resign now, so that Clackamas County commissioners can appoint McMullen and ensure a smooth transition for the elections office. In resigning, Hall would avoid prolonging what we believe will be her inevitable departure from office after the November election.
The clerk's office is supposed to be nonpartisan, but Hall's objectivity has legitimately been called into question. A registered Republican, Hall's election errors have seemed to benefit members of her own party. In addition to her staffer filling out ballots for Republicans, her office produced a ballot listing the "Democrat Party" — a term that some of the Democratic Party's opponents have adopted as a slur.
Hall has gone out of her way to make her partisan feelings known through her social media pages and her refusal to carry out same-sex marriages. Her latest fiasco over misprinting ballot barcodes is disproportionally affecting Democratic ballots.
Overt partisan activities undermine the credibility of the clerk's office, but the main reason for Hall to resign is her repeated mistakes, which point to sheer incompetence.
By contrast, McMullen has solid professional credentials. And while she is a registered Democrat, she is a far cry from a party apparatchik. McMullen bucks the directives of both major parties by supporting open primaries.
"Our current closed-party primary system keeps non-affiliated and minor party voters out of important decision-making in our primary election," McMullen said.
McMullen also recognizes that women and people with disabilities are much more likely to be affected by Oregon law requiring signature verification prior to counting ballots. When she notices that someone's signature is becoming more enfeebled looking, as a normal part of everyone's aging process, she'll count the vote and send that voter a letter saying that they might want to submit a new signature for the next election.
Hall's office, on the other hand has been waiting until voter signatures no longer match, then sending elderly voters letters threatening to kick them off the voter rolls and not count their ballots in the current election if they don't send in new signatures in two-week's time.
McMullen is full of other common-sense solutions benefiting all voters. Readers can review these for themselves at clackamasvoice.org before they cast their ballots against Hall in November. But Hall should make it easier for everyone — and help ensure a better election process in November — by resigning now.
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