Eudaly releases controversial canvassing map
Commission Chloe Eudaly has released a map showing this Friday's city-funded get-out-the-vote will focus on East Portland, where turnout has traditionally lagged.
The Multnomah County Republican Party has filed a complaint about the door-to-door canvassing by Portland employees on public time organized by Eudaly. Chair James Buchal says it is an illegal attempt to help re-elect Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown over Republican state Rep. Knute Buehler in the Nov. 6 General Election. Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the county by a margin of 268,906 to 62,784.
"This is a transparently partisan misuse of city funds to aid Kate Brown's losing campaign, but it is also plainly illegal," says Buchal
The chapter requested the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission investigate the use of city funds to support the door-to-door canvass on Nov. 2. The complaint argues the spending violates state tax laws because the City Council did not specifically authorize funds for the canvassing in the current budget.
"With rising problems of disorder and decay, even the city council has not been so foolish as to budget scarce tax funds for marching city workers door-to-door to collect Democratic ballots," Buchal said in a Monday press release. "That makes the use of funds illegal, and the law will make Councilwoman Eudaly personally liable for these expenditures."
The commission will investigate the complaint, but may not be able to complete its work by Friday.
"We will investigate as required by the statute and report publicly on the investigation. I do not have a timeline yet," Executive Director Craig Gibbons said at press time.
Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeves says the spending is legal, however.
"We believe this activity is legal. State law prohibits the use of any city resources to advocate for or against any candidate or measure. As you know, the city "Get Out the Vote" effort is nonpartisan and is directed solely to increasing voter participation in precincts with historically low turnout rates," says Reeves.
The Oregon Secretary of State's Office has declined to investigate complaints against the event because it has not already happened.
In addition to the city paying the employees who participate, Eudaly's office has also spent several thousand dollars on door hangers reminding voters who are not home to return their mail-in ballots before election day.
Eudaly's office says the door-to-door canvassing will be non-partisan and targeted at parts of town where voter turnout has been historically low. The map Monday showing most precincts to be canvassed are east of 82nd Avenue, where turnout averaged below 50 percent in the last three elections. It was prepared by the Office of Community and Civic Life, which Eudaly oversees.
The map shows a stark difference in voter turnout on either side of 82nd. On the west side, turnout was below 50 percent in only a handful or precincts, and more than 60 percent in some. On the east side, turnout was above 50 percent in only a handful of precincts, and below 40 percent in several.
"Our office is grateful for the additional attention to the importance of voting that the complaint has generated and we are confident that the effort complies with the spirit and letter of the law," said Marshall Runkel, Eudaly's chief of staff.
The canvassing is scheduled to begin with a 2:30 p.m. rally on Nov. 2 outside City Hall. The event was first reported by Willamette Week.
Not everyone on the council supports the idea. Commissioner Nick Fish does not want any employees in bureaus he oversees to be paid by the city for participating in the canvassing. At his direction, the interim director of Portland Parks & Recreation has told its employees they need to use vacation time to participate in it.
And a Portland landlord has accused Eudaly of using the workers to help activist Jo Ann Hardesty defeat Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith in the general election race to succeed outgoing Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Eudaly has endorsed Hardesty. The both support rent control, while Smith says she supports "renter protections."
"I pay taxes in Portland and don't want my tax money going to influence the election," says King, who also owns a real estate office. She is planning to file a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, and has emailed people she knows encouraging them to do the same.
Runkel says that Smith also has supporters in East Portland, however.