West Linn resident Catherine McMullen filed for the office of Clackamas County clerk Thursday morning, Sept. 9, and is now set to begin campaigning for the May 2022 primary election.
"Today is a big day, not just for the campaign, but for furthering democracy in Clackamas County," McMullen said in a statement.
Clackamas County's clerk, a nonpartisan position held by Sherry Hall since 2003, is responsible for conducting elections and keeping public records. In a press release announcing McMullen's candidacy, she identified the position as a "vital link" between citizens and their local government.
McMullen told Pamplin Media Group she's ideally suited to take over as Clackamas County clerk, having amassed 15 years of public service experience. She is currently certified by the Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC) as an elections administrator for Multnomah County, where she also serves as program specialist.
"One of the most important things is that people can have a voice and a say in public decision-making," McMullen said. "As a Clackamas County resident, I see pockets where people don't have as much of a voice and aren't as involved."
In 2015, McMullen started Multnomah County's Voter Education and Outreach (VEO) program, which remains the only local government program of its kind in the state of Oregon. In June, McMullen founded a new voter engagement effort, Clackamas Voice, also dedicated to eliminating barriers to voter access, particularly for underrepresented communities and areas.
McMullen was the first candidate to announce her campaign for the position and set up fundraising efforts in July. She was also the first to file for the County Clerk position on Thursday as a group of friends, supporters and voters in attendance cheered her on.
"Today on filing day we dig into the work of improving the way all future elections will be conducted in Clackamas County," McMullen said on Thursday, the first day for prospective candidates to file for county positions.
"It is time for new leadership in the county clerk's office," she said. "It is time for safe, secure and transparent elections processes. It is time for inclusive and equitable voter education and for all eligible Clackamas County citizens to have access to the ballot."
McMullen said her main goals are increasing voter registration capacity, understanding of how local elections work and opportunities for public participation, such as volunteering and serving on public boards.
One barrier to voter access she identifies: Although Oregon's "vote-at-home" system is intended to make the process more convenient for residents, it ignores the large population of state residents experiencing economic inequality, housing instability and homelessness.
"If you do not have a stable home address and have to pick up and move more often, you are dramatically less likely to receive a ballot, and then subsequently vote in each election," McMullen wrote in a July op-ed.
McMullen said another barrier is created when services are not made accessible to groups of people including those whose first language is not English and people with disabilities. On her campaign website, she offers five different language options including English.
"It is critical, really, that we're reaching all eligible Clackamas County voters," McMullen said.
McMullen would like the state to address these obstacles through automatic voter registration outside of the DMV, such as through hunting licenses, social services, community college admissions and a program that encourages property managers to include a voter registration opportunity as part of the lease-signing process.
To assist residents in ensuring they are fully registered to vote, McMullen will host a voter registration drive for National Voter Registration Day Sept. 28.
She said more community engagement efforts are to come, and has already begun going to various Clackamas County communities and meeting residents.
"Clackamas County is the largest county with an elected County clerk and is very geographically diverse," McMullen said. "There's just so many different aspects that make each community unique, that are brought together under one county."
More information about McMullen is available on her website.
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