Oregon Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, is requesting a formal investigation into a blurred-barcode debacle possibly impacting up to two-thirds of Clackamas County ballots filed in the May 17 primary election, resulting in delayed vote counts, public uncertainty and the emergency reassignment of 200 employees to work at the elections office.
Bynum, who chairs the Oregon House Judiciary Committee, released a statement calling out County Clerk Sherry Hall for her "inaction" once alerted of the misprint two weeks prior to the election, initially choosing not to accept assistance offered by county leaders.
"Despite having time to prepare for an election-day disaster, Ms. Hall has repeatedly failed to adapt and accept enough help to remedy the current crisis," Bynum said. "When voters cast their ballots, they deserve efficient, transparent and integrity-driven processes to determine who wins those elections."
The lawmaker said she is "disturbed" at the "unreasonable and untenable" situation that will likely require a heavy lift to complete final result reports by the June deadline, according to Hall, who said in a virtual press conference Friday that the county should have prepared better.
"I didn't respond to this with the urgency that I should have, and I realize that, but I still know that we will have the counting done on time," Hall told members of the press. "This was something that we had never seen before … But I now know that we should have done it probably the next day and we would have been in place with probably additional workers at the end of that week, but I didn't so this is where we are."
Hall did not provide a reason for choosing not to act swiftly, and did not specify a timeline for final results despite a statement from county spokesperson Kimberly Dinwiddie that Hall's office is "committed to ensuring a secure election with every vote counted by June 13," the final day to file election results with Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.
Fagan on Friday called for a formal plan of recourse to be released by Clackamas County elections officials, reassuring residents that "every vote will be counted" and blaming officials for not acting with "appropriate urgency," requesting a written explanation how the county plans to use the extra resources and a detailed timeline.
Preceding Bynum's statement, a formal complaint regarding the election fiasco was filed on Thursday by the campaign of congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who said unequal access was given to campaigns seeking to observe ballot tallying.
An elections observer for the Clackamas County Democrat's campaign alleged that an observer from fellow Democrat Kurt Schrader's campaign was already in the room and had signed in at 7:30 a.m., an hour before the office was officially open.
During Friday's press conference, Hall confirmed that around 7 a.m. on Thursday, a representative from Schrader's campaign was in the building but should not have been inside until it opens at 8:30 a.m., adding that: "It's possible someone used their badge to get in and someone else followed them in," Hall said. "It could have been someone who doesn't work in the elections office."
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