SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's second elections director in as many years has announced that she is calling it quits after seeing the division through the November midterm election.
Deborah Scroggin joined the Secretary of State's office in June of 2021 after a three-month search. She previously worked in the Portland City Auditor's office. The director prior to that, Stephen Trout, was fired by then-Secretary of State Bev Clarno after he pointed out problems with Oregon's aging elections equipment.
It's been a tough few years for election workers generally. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in September that her office was being flooded with public records requests stemming from “the big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, falling on limited local elections staff in the midst of gearing up for a general election.
That same disinformation has made election workers the target of more threats since 2020.
KGW's Pat Dooris spoke to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Monday regarding Scroggin's resignation. While she said that it's a question for Fagan, she also spoke about the position of elections director from her experience as a former secretary of state and current governor.
"I will say that overseeing elections — particularly now after the Trump administration and his efforts to frankly provide false information to Americans about the integrity of our voting systems — being in elections is an incredibly tough job right now," Brown said. "Secretaries of state across the nation have gotten death threats. It is absolutely unacceptable. By any measure, by any account, America and particularly Oregon has one of the most safe and secure voting systems in the entire world."
Asked if there is a systemic problem in Oregon with the position of elections director, Brown said "no." It's just a tough job, she said. And Scroggin essentially said as much in her resignation letter.
"We are at an extraordinarily challenging time for elections officials," Scroggin wrote. "Mis- and disinformation have made the work of administering elections extremely challenging."
Scroggin closed out her letter by wishing her colleagues "best of luck." Considering the context, that was probably more of a genuine concern than a simple platitude.
Late last week, Fagan spoke with state lawmakers about elections. She said she wants four new positions added to her office and would like the legislature to fund them.
The Secretary of State's office tracked 220 incidents of false information related to elections this past year, Fagan said. And she recounted how some members of the public appear to be deliberately trying to overwhelm elections offices with frivolous public records requests.
"The flood of public records requests that are highly technical but take a large amount of time to actually work through what the person is even asking for, and often by the time the clerk — which sometimes is one clerk, like in Lake County, one person that works in this elections office — by the time they often get back to the people and say, 'Okay, here's the things we actually have. These things don't apply to Oregon. Here's what we can actually give you.' It will cost, you know, $92 or $104 dollars for our staff time," Fagan said. "The person then disappears. And then comes back with a new request that they cut and paste off some national website and then the cycle just continues. And it's incredibly, incredibly time consuming. And this is duplicated across all 36 counties."
Fagan said she wants her office to handle all of those public records requests in order to ease the strain on local elections workers.
With Scroggin leaving, senior advisor and strategic projects director Molly Woon has been tapped to serve as interim elections director while Fagan's office again looks for someone to head the division.