Clackamas County Completes Ballot Count by Certification Deadline in May Primary

Nearly one month after the polls closed in the May 17 primary election, and on the day of the deadline for all counties to certify their results, the office of embattled Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall reports that all ballots have been counted.

The county experienced unprecedented delays in tallying and reporting primary results, due to a ballot printing error and Hall’s admitted failures to adequately prepare for it.

Fewer than 10% of the ballots returned by Clackamas County voters had been tallied on Election Night, the vast majority of them from Republicans (the printing error primarily affected Democrat and non-affiliated ballots), leaving the results of several major Democratic and nonpartisan local races in doubt for weeks.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan held press conferences and unleashed several severe statements about Clackamas County’s election nightmare, repeatedly calling the situation and some of Hall’s behavior “outrageous.”

She has faced statewide and even national criticism for not accepting help earlier and refusing to take responsibility for the crisis, and media voices as diverse as The Oregonian and Lars Larson joined in calling for the longtime clerk to step down.

Because the printing error — which Hall’s office failed to catch in April because they inexplicably tested their machines on ballots printed in-house instead of the ones actually sent to voters — rendered tens of thousands of ballots unreadable by the county’s machines, each one had to be painstakingly hand-duplicated onto a clean ballot.

Hundreds of temporarily displaced workers from other offices and counties spent several weeks on the grueling task, working in pairs of officials from different political parties to ensure fairness and accuracy.

In her statement Monday, Hall said the duplication and ballot counting followed all state requirements and thanked the County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Gary Schmidt for “providing the staffing resources needed to complete the elections process on time.”

“I also want to extend my gratitude to the hundreds of county employees who worked many hours, my own staff and usual election staff who worked countless hours,” she said. “We’re very pleased to have completed the count on time and to certify the election on deadline date [sic] as set by state law.

“As in every election, we will review and evaluate our processes and procedures as an ongoing commitment to preserve election integrity and security.”

Fagan last week ordered an in-depth audit of Clackamas County’s primary election results, one that goes beyond the standard post-election checking required of all counties to ensure results were tallied correctly.

The county received just over 116,000 ballots by May 24, the cutoff for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted under a new state law. That’s a 37% turnout — higher than expected for a midterm primary with no statewide measures or money issues on the ballot.

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