Just over a week remains before voters select candidates for state and local seats.

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Ballots for the May 2022 primary can be dropped off at ballot collection boxes until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.The Tuesday, May 17, primary is fast approaching, with state and local candidates and measures on the ballot.


Ballots were sent out last week.

Columbia County voters can drop off their ballots anytime at the Columbia County Courthouse at 230 Stand St., St. Helens; Scappoose City Hall at 33568 E. Columbia Ave, Scappoose; Clatskanie Library at 11 Lillich St., Clatskanie; Rainier City Hall at 106 B St. West, Rainier; or Vernonia Public Library at 701 Weed Ave., Vernonia.

Voters can also drop ballots inside Mist-Birkenfeld RFPD at 12525 Nehalem Highway, Mist, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or until 8 p.m. on election night.

Voters can also drop their ballots off at official ballot drop sites in other Oregon counties.

Ballots can also be mailed in. Oregon previously only accepted mailed-in ballots that were received by 8 p.m. on election night, but has now changed to accept ballots that are postmarked by the 8 p.m. cutoff.

Voters should use caution if mailing their ballot close to election day; ballots will only be postmarked when postal workers pick them up from the mail drop box. Mail drop boxes are labeled with what days and times they are picked up.

This election, the back of Columbia County ballots contain an error. The ballots say "Be sure to sign your ballot. Unsigned ballots cannot be counted," but they should say "Be sure to sign your ballot envelope." The ballots themselves should not be signed.

Party primaries

Columbia County voters who are registered with a political party will be voting in for their party's nominees for the state Legislature.

This is the first election held under the new legislative district lines drawn following the 2020 Census.

As in elections past, all of Columbia County is within Senate District 16 and Congressional District 1. The majority of Columbia County is still in House District 31, except for Clatskanie, which joined House District 32.

The primary election won't have much impact in the SD 16 race; Democrat Melissa Busch and Republican Suzanne Weber are the only candidates for their parties' nominations.

The race for HD 31 is more contentious. Anthony Sorace is the only Democrat running for the office, but Drew A. Layda and Brian G. Stout are vying for the Republican nomination.

Layda and Sorace attended a candidate forum in April. Stout did not attend.

Democrat Rep. Suzanne Bonamici is running for another term representing Congressional District 1. She faces two Democrat challengers: Scott Phillips and Christian Robertson. In the Republican primary, Christopher A. Mann and Armidia Murray are seeking the nomination in the heavily Democratic district.

Voters will also be asked to vote for a precinct committee person (PCP) for their party and part of the county. PCPs vote on official party business, elect party leadership, and nominate candidates to fill vacancies in partisan office, like earlier this year after Betsy Johnson resigned from SD 16.

Local candidates

Only one local position is contested on the primary ballot.

Four candidates have filed for Columbia County Board of Commissioners, Position 2, a nonpartisan position: Kelly Niles, Kellie Jo Smith, Jonathan Barclay and Brian Brust.

The candidates have answered questions from the Spotlight and attended a candidate forum.

The next county commissioner most likely won't be known after the primary. A candidate would need to receive a majority of the votes cast in order to win the seat. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will face each other in the November general election.

District Attorney Jeff Auxier is running unopposed. Auxier was first appointed to the role in 2017 and won his first four-year term in 2018.

Columbia County Assessor Andrea Jurkiewicz is running unopposed after being appointed to the role by county commissioners last summer.

Two candidates have filed for Columbia County sheriff. Incumbent Brian Pixley is seeking a second term, while St. Helens Police Officer Terry E. Massey Jr. is seeking to unseat Pixley.

The shrieval election won't be on the May ballot, however. State law requires that sheriffs, clerks and treasurers be elected at the general election, not the primary.

The candidates for sheriff and clerk had to file by the primary filing deadline because if there were more than two candidates for either office, the candidates would run in the primary and, similar to the county commissioner, narrow down to the top two candidates to face off in the general election.

Since there are only two candidates for sheriff, the position won't be on the ballot until November.

Local measures

Only one measure will be on the ballot anywhere in Columbia County: Columbia City residents will vote on a proposed five-year property tax to fund police services.

Election night

The county elections department, under elections supervisor Don Clack and Columbia County Clerk Debbie Klug, will post preliminary election results at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. Elections workers will still be processing ballots at that time, so updates will be posted at 11 p.m. and/or the end of the night. The end time varies, depending on how many ballots and how many workers there are.

The results at the end of election night are not final.

In the following weeks, election workers exchange ballots with other counties, like if a Columbia County voter dropped their ballot off in Multnomah County, and resolve signature issues. Election workers compare the signatures on ballot envelopes with the signatures in a voter's registration. If the signatures don't match, they contact the voter to give them an opportunity to correct the issue.

Also, new this year due to a change in state law, ballots that are received after Election Day will continue to be counted, provided they were postmarked by May 17.

Columbia County results will be posted on the county website. After election night, updates will be published weekly until June 13, when the final certified results will be released.

For statewide contests like governor, and for races that include more than just Columbia County, like the House and Senate districts, results will be available on the Oregon Secretary of State's website.

Less than half of registered voters have voted in most recent primary elections in Columbia County. Turnout is typically higher in years with presidential primaries.

In 2018, just 33.5% of registered voters in Columbia County voted in the primary.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.