SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan addressed the ballot-printing fiasco in Clackamas County that has delayed results from last week's primary.
Secretary Fagan says she offered the county help within 24 hours of learning thousands of ballots were printed with bad barcodes. Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall initially declined assistance, but has since changed course and accepted help.
Secretary Fagan says she has no plans to take over the election as it would be a violation of state law. When asked if she would request Hall's resignation, Fagan said no.
"I'm focused on the North Star of working with her and I'm not going to do anything to muddy the waters or make it more complicated to work with her," Fagan said. "We need to get these results to Clackamas County voters, to Oregon voters by June 13."
Tens of thousands of ballots in Oregon's third-largest county were printed with blurred barcodes, making them unreadable by vote-counting machines — a mistake that wasn't caught until ballots were already being returned in the vote-by-mail state. Elections workers must now hand-transfer the votes from those ballots to new ones that can be read in a painstaking process that also raises the possibility of duplication errors.
Clackamas County Elections Clerk Sherry Hall, who defended her actions at a news conference last week, has come under fire from state lawmakers. State Rep. Janelle Bynum, who represents voters in the county, last week called the situation "unreasonable, and untenable" and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who represents some Clackamas voters in Congress, called Hall's slow reaction "unconscionable."
Last week, Fagan demanded a written plan from Hall detailing how she would get the election results tabulated by June 13, the state deadline to certify results.
It’s not the first time Hall, who is up for reelection in November after holding the job since 2003, has come under fire in her elections role. In 2012, a temporary election worker was sentenced to 90 days in jail after admitting she tampered with two ballots. In 2014, Hall was criticized for using the phrase "Democrat Party" — a pejorative used by Republicans to demean Democrats — on a primary ballot instead of Democratic Party.
A county audit conducted last year identified several problems with elections procedures but Hall only implemented two of the four fixes suggested in the audit, Tootie Smith, the county chairwoman, said.
Clackamas County stretches nearly 2,000 square miles from Portland's liberal southern suburbs to rural conservative communities on the flanks of Mount Hood.