Officials dispute Smith's claims of voting 'irregularities'
Problems with a private voter database are responsible for most of the "irregularities" that prompted Loretta Smith to call for an audit of the Aug. 11 City Council election, according to Oregon and Multnomah County elections officials.
Smith, a former Multnomah County commissioner, lost to longtime school advocate Dan Ryan in the special runoff election to fill the vacancy on the council by around 5,300 votes.
On Aug. 20, Smith wrote the Oregon secretary of state and Multnomah County elections officials to say her campaign had discovered "irregularities" among those who voted that raised questions about the accuracy of the count. For starters, Smith said a high number of voters — 11,184 out of the approximately 175,000 who voted — had the same Jan. 1 birthdate.
Smith also said 13,757 voters had not voted in any election before this year for five or 10 years.
And Smith said at least one voter apparently was dead.
"Due to the nature of statistical improbability that these voters are free from error or fraud, coupled with the quantity of voters being enough to change the outcome of the election, we are requesting that Multnomah County, in conjunction with the Oregon Secretary of State, immediately initiate a Risk-Limiting audit of the August 2020 Special election," Smith wrote in the letter first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Smith asked that the audit be completed before the election results are certified.
But on Friday, state Elections Director Stephen Trout said the irregularities are only in the spreadsheet Smith submitted with her letter, not in state or county voter and elections records. Trout said he did not know the source of the information in the spreadsheet, but
according to Trout, Oregon law prohibits the state from releasing the day and month a voter is born, so the Jan. 1 birth dates in the spreadsheet came from somewhere else.
"We do not know where you obtained the birth month and day data but it is inaccurate and there are not 11,000 voters with a Jan. 1 birthdate. The full birthdates of these voters with varying months and days are present in Oregon Centralized Voter Registration and we see no irregularities in the official data," Trout wrote.
Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott told the Portland Tribune the Jan. 1 date was likely added as a "placeholder" by whoever is maintaining the database of voter information used by Smith's campaign. Smith's campaign spending reports show payments to several firms for management and other services.
Trout also said many of those who voted in the Aug. 11 election had only registered recently and so had not voted in previous elections. Others had voted in previous elections, despite what the spreadsheet showed.
"As with the birthdate claims above, I do not know where the campaign obtained the voter history data, but I do not see any irregularities in the official voter history information for the voters in this spreadsheet," Trout said.
In a separate email to Smith's campaign, Scott said the ballot from the dead voter had the word "deceased" written across the front of the return mail envelope. The ballot was not counted, although it was recorded as having been received.
Trout and Scott ended their responses by asking the Smith campaign if there was anything else it would like them to do. Smith and her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Portland Tribune.
The election was held to fill the remainder of the term of the late Commissioner Nick Fish, who died of cancer in January. Ryan and Smith faced each other in the runoff election because they received the most votes in the crowded May 3 primary election. No candidate won outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. In May, Smith received 18.8% and Ryan received 16.6%.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story is here.
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