Some members of the Republican Party in Oregon say they received unwanted nonpartisan ballots ahead of the May 19 primary — with allegations flying of a vast conspiracy... or a routine mix-up.
Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, has now launched an investigation into the matter, saying he has collected hundreds of reports of changed ballots from citizens.
"I don't hear of it happening to Democrats," Nearman said in an interview. "Either it's because I don't talk to Democrats, or it's not happening to Democrats."
In Oregon, primaries are closed, meaning that voters who don't officially register with a political party can't influence who the party nominates for partisan races. A non-affiliated ballot doesn't even contain the option to vote on those races, but it does list local nonpartisan races, bonds and ballot measures in the primary.
Non-affiliated voters still get to pick between the parties in the general election.
Nearman has said he thinks the problem may be related to Oregon's motor-voter law, which automatically registers Oregonians to vote when they head to the DMV. He notes that Democrats outnumber Republicans in Oregon — with party rolls of roughly 1,000,000 and 711,000, respectively.
"If it was just luck of the draw — if it was just broken software — it should be happening to more Democrats to Republicans," Nearman said, adding that the DMV has not yet answered a list of questions he sent to them.
The Oregon Secretary of State's office, however, says all such allegations of deliberate tampering are incorrect.
"Statements online that say that party has been changed against their wishes is misinformation and our Elections Director is trying to work with Facebook and Twitter to have it deemed as such and removed," Secretary of State spokeswoman Andrea Chiapella told Lead Stories.
"There hasn't been any consistent reason as to why they thought they were registered with a party and were not, some of it has been simple misreading of their ballot," she added, saying these complaints come up every election cycle from both parties.
While a Facebook group organized around the issue has more than 1,000 members, the majority of the Oregon Republican party appears to have been unaffected by the issue. More than 335,000 Oregonians cast a vote by mail in the Republican Party primary for the Secretary of State's office, for instance. Only about 40% of voters participated in this year's primary.
Chiapella told the Tribune that Lead Stories is a third-party fact checking website that found the allegations to be unverified.
"We still continue to look into cases that have been brought to our attention and still haven't found any cases of fraud or malfeasance," she said.
Nearman first announced his investigation during an interview with radio host Lars Larson.
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