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Rep. Julie Parrish admits shes behind the calls



Julie ParrishIf you received a prerecorded phone call recently stating you were listed as an inactive voter, you’re not alone. Around 42,000 such automated calls were placed statewide, many to the wrong recipients.

The message urged listeners to contact their local elections office immediately because they were registered as “de-active status.”

However, many of the individuals called were current voters whose records were up to date. The Oregon office secretary of state had no knowledge of the “robocalls” and after fielding complaints out of nearly every county in the state, investigated the origin of the calls.

On Friday, Our Oregon filed a complaint to the attorney general and secretary of state, asking for a thorough investigation. The complaint was against Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), Tim Trickey, Northwest Market Research, Republican Sen. Larry George, Loren Parks and Matthew Lowe.

The Oregon Democratic Party is also looking for an investigation.

Parrish took credit for the calls — 73,000 in all — and said she was trying to address what she views as an issue of disenfranchisement. She said she purchased voter files from the secretary of state’s office and identified voters whose registration was inactive. This can happen if a voter does not submit a single ballot over a five-year period.

“Everyone seems to agree that it’s highly suspicious for Julie Parrish and the head of the Senate Republicans to carry out a bizarre spate of robocalls to good voters in Oregon, telling them they’re not going to get a ballot,” said Trent Lutz, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

Parrish said she took up the issue when one of her constituents described how a clerical error had prevented him from voting in a recent election.

“Vote by mail is both a blessing and a curse” if voter files rely on out-of-date addresses and information, Parrish said. She found that at least 30,000 telephone numbers were out of date.

“Data integrity matters,” Parrish said. “My concern is that there are some data integrity problems” with voter files.

Parrish is owner of the online community Coupon Girl. She hopes to introduce legislation that would require the secretary of state to do more outreach relating to voter registration status and call on that office to do more extensive cross-referencing between marriage licenses and voter files to avoid duplicate or mis-delivered ballots.

“It should make every voter in Oregon a little uncomfortable that our most inalienable right as citizens is compromised because of technical errors in managing the data,” Parrish said.

But confusion around the calls’ unclear origin left many Oregon voters upset. Also problematic was the fact the Oregon Small Business Association was identified as a sponsor of these calls, when in fact the organization had no involvement in the project. Political consultant Tim Trickey took responsibility for the mistake, saying that automated calling was one of many projects he was coordinating during campaign season through his firm, Northwest Market Research, and that he “failed to do due diligence” and confused OSBA’s involvement.

“As a vendor, we made a critical error here and embarrassed them horribly,” he said, adding that OSBA had been gracious when he apologized for the mistake.

While Parrish argued the robocalling system would be inexpensive, she did not have a projected cost analysis available. One transaction accessed through the secretary of state’s records shows that Friends of Julie Parrish paid NMR $5,950 on Sept. 20 of this year, but Parrish said that was unrelated to the voter registration initiative and that NMR is a “vendor for personal outreach” in her reelection campaign.

According to Our Oregon Executive Director Patrick Green, “We believe there is good reason to suspect that Sen. George and (Loren) Parks may be involved in financing the fraudulent robocalls.”

According to a letter from Our Oregon, the robocalls violate Oregon’s robocall statute and the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The statute prohibits automatic calls to all numbers on the federal Do Not Call list. Each violation is subject to a fine of $5,000.

“With all the many people involved, this was either a conspiracy to confuse and disenfranchise 73,000 voters or a confederacy of dunces,” Green said. “Either way, someone should be held responsible for breaking the law.”

“There needs to be an investigation of Trickey and Parrish so that we can all rest assured that voters in Oregon will get their ballots without intrusion or meddling, and we need to be sure this won’t happen again,” Lutz said.

According to Parrish, the secretary of state said no election laws were violated.

“Mr. Green’s allegations on behalf of Our Oregon, a public-union funded organization with a history of attempting to deceive voters, is no more than a ploy to distract voters from the fact that the voter file is riddled with inaccuracies which will leave some voters without a ballot in the mailboxes this week,” Parrish said.

Oregon’s voter registration deadline was Oct. 16. To check the status of your voter registration, visit oregonvotes.gov.

Elections aren’t certified for 30 days. If you vote by Nov. 6 and your ballot is returned, send it back in and it will still count.

If you don’t respond, then your registration becomes invalid and you won’t receive a ballot next election. If you haven’t received a ballot in the mail by election night, visit the county elections office to get one.

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