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While refusing to provide data to substantiate claims, Kathy Cooper questions integrity of election system.

PMG FILE PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Elections workers tally ballots in a room at the Columbia County Courthouse in a May 2015 election. The two candidates for Columbia County clerk differ on a core belief: whether or not local elections are secure.

Candidate Kathy Cooper has spent part of 2022 claiming there is widespread inaccuracy in local voter rolls. But if she has any evidence for that claim — which county and state officials wholly reject — she is keeping it to herself.

Cooper claimed she and a group of canvassers found errors in a sampling of Columbia County voter rolls, saying they learned that people registered to vote at addresses did not reside at those addresses.

Cooper declined to name other people involved in the canvassing during an interview on KOHI. Cooper also offered to send the radio hosts the data that she was referencing, but the hosts said she never provided that data.

Cooper declined to send any of her data to the Spotlight, citing a nondisclosure agreement she and the other canvassers signed.

Don Clack, the Columbia County elections supervisor, said he reviewed an initial data set Cooper collected, showing people who were registered to vote at an address but did not live there.

Of 19 people who were described as "phantom voters" on a spreadsheet, eight had moved addresses between the November 2020 election and when Cooper's group conducted their canvassing. Four were moved to inactive status, which means they do not receive ballots. Registered voters are set to inactive when a ballot is returned as undeliverable or the signature on a ballot does not match records and is not corrected.

Seven others were registered as active voters. Most had the same last name as current residents.

Voter rolls are routinely updated through the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Change of Address service, which reports when people file a change of address with the post office. The elections division is also notified by the Oregon Vital Records Office when people die.

Oregon also shares voter registration data with other states. Three of the voters who were set as inactive in Oregon on the data set Clack referred to had their status changed because they registered to vote in a different state.

There were a handful of residents whom canvassers said had claimed to have voted in the last election but did not have their ballots counted. But those claims don't hold up, either. One had not voted in the past 32 elections, Clack said. One had been an active registered voter since 2014 but had never cast a ballot. Another was not yet 18 at the time of the election they claimed to have voted in.

Clack said that disregarding duplicate information, there were 46 total names on the canvassers' list. Cooper has claimed there were 98 people who did not live at the address listed for them.

A handful of other voters among those 46 had been made inactive more than a year before canvassers reported they were not living at the listed addresses, meaning that they were not continuing to receive ballots at those locations.

Oregon does have relatively loose definitions of residency for the purpose of voter registration. State law says a person can still be considered a resident if they have temporarily moved away and have not established residency or registered to vote elsewhere. Those can include, for example, college students or temporary workers who stay registered to vote from their family home.

Voters in Columbia County and at least three other Oregon counties have reported people coming door to door, asking questions about their voter registration, the Associated Press and KGW reported. In Klamath County, residents called the county clerk's office to ask if the group came from the clerk's office. As in the other counties, they were not.

Cooper said she and her group identified themselves as a "local nonpartisan volunteer group."

Voter lists are a public record in Oregon. Anyone can request and pay for a copy of statewide voter lists, which include names, addresses, and if a registered voter cast a ballot in past elections. Voter lists do not say which candidate a person voted for or how they voted on ballot measures.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has defended Oregon's election system, as have previous secretaries of state of both parties, including Republican Bev Clarno, who presided over the 2020 election in the Beaver State.

"I am so proud of the work all of our election officials do every day to ensure that our democracy is safe and secure," Clarno said in a statement certifying the 2020 election results. "Voters can rest assured that their votes count and that our system remains one of the most accessible in the nation."

Democrat Joe Biden was elected president in 2020, winning Oregon by a wide margin while capturing 306 electoral votes nationwide.

In an interview on KOHI, Cooper declined to say who won the 2020 presidential election.

"Right now, in the presidential Oval Office, there is a man named Joe Biden. So he is the current president. That's pretty obvious. But the point is, people don't trust that," Cooper said on a joint show of "Odd Friday" and "Setting the Record Straight."

Debbie Klug, the current county clerk, acknowledges that Biden won.

"As a neutral party, that is nonpartisan, I personally have not seen any evidence that the election was unfair or stolen," Klug said.

State and federal judges in multiple states rejected challenges by former President Donald Trump and his allies to the 2020 election results, which secretaries of state from both parties affirmed were accurate. Multiple recounts and audits substantiated the results in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, which Biden carried.

Congress certified the election results on Jan. 6, 2021, despite rioting by Trump supporters that left several dead and temporarily forced then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress to evacuate both the House and Senate chambers.

Trump has continued to falsely claim he won the election. Many of his allies in the Republican Party have parroted Trump's lie, although some leading Republicans, including Oregon gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan, have rejected it.

Mark Miller contributed to this report.


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