State orders audit of Clackamas County primary results
As she promised, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has ordered an audit of the May 17 primary election results in Clackamas County, where thousands of ballots had to be duplicated as a result of faulty printed barcodes.
Although elections are conducted by officials in Oregon's 36 counties — Sherry Hall is the elected Clackamas County clerk — state law establishes the secretary of state as Oregon's chief elections officer.
"My mission as Oregon's secretary of state is to build trust," Fagan said in a statement accompanying her order on Friday, June 10. "But let's face it, weeks of negative headlines eroded Oregonians' trust in elections. Even though processing the votes in Clackamas County was slow, it is now my responsibility to confirm that it was done correctly so voters can trust the election results."
Fagan is a resident of Clackamas County, as is former Gov. Barbara Roberts, who also is a former secretary of state.
Oregon has conducted all elections by mail ballot since 2000.
Post-election audits are standard in Oregon. They usually involve county election workers pulling a statistically significant random sampling of ballots in statewide races off the shelves — ballots are normally tallied by optical scanners or other machines — and counting them by hand. Then the samples are matched against the machine-tallied results to verify their accuracy.
The order for Clackamas County goes further. It requires workers to verify that the ballots they duplicated by hand were transcribed accurately, in addition to the standard requirements.
The order specifies which batches of ballots should be recounted from six countywide races. The batches were randomly selected, as were the races.
The contests are Clackamas County commissioner positions 2 and 5 — incumbents Paul Savas and Sonya Fischer are headed for Nov. 8 runoffs, since neither won a majority in the primary for the nonpartisan offices — plus party nominees for U.S. senator, and unopposed candidates for three nonpartisan judgeships on the Clackamas County Circuit Court, Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court. Ten races for precinct committee persons also are covered.
According to the order, the batches represent 10% of the total ballots cast. Depending on the race, between 90,000 and 98,000 ballots were cast in Clackamas County in the primary. The audits cover samplings of the total.
The deadline for Clackamas County is June 23, though it can be adjusted. The deadline for completion of the hand counts required of counties in their audits is June 21.
The order describes the justification for Fagan to issue her order:
"Clackamas County's May 17, 2022, primary election was conducted under unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances. A majority of the ballots were misprinted, resulting in bar codes that tally machines could not read. This required the county to duplicate tens of thousands of ballots before machine tallying.
"In order to certify results on time, the county required hundreds of additional staff, an emergency response from the county government, added security measures, several revisions to the security plan, and increased oversight by the Secretary of State's Office."
The order was signed by Deborah Scroggin, director of the state Elections Division.
NOTE: Adds estimated total ballots cast in Clackamas County for the May 17 primary.
Link to the text of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan's order:
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