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Monday, November 7, 2011

Elections Director Steve Trout refuses to follow Oregon Election Law



November 7, 2011
My Republican primary opponent, D.R. Delgado-Morgan, just told me about her conversation this morning with Steve Trout, Oregon’s Director of Elections.  Mr. Trout told her that the state has authorized counties not to destroy unused ballots until after the deadline has passed for candidates to ask for a recount.  If counties hold onto blank ballots through the recount, instead of destroying them on Election Day as state law requires, then the First District candidates and voters won’t be able to be assured that the only ballots being counted are those that voters actually cast.  

Background

During the 2010 November election and in the most recent May 2011 election, Mr. Trout instructed Washington and Multnomah Counties to schedule the shredding of all the unused leftover ballots after the vote certification but before the end of the recount period. As a THPRD candidate, I recorded the shredding of the May ballots and then went to Washington County to demand a recount of my home precinct, and to photograph my precinct's boxes at that time.  A Washington County elections worker told me that the county would not allow the precinct boxes to be photographed.  I asked to photograph the sealed ballot boxes to verify that they remained intact and unopened before the recount.  When the county refused to allow the ballot boxes and their seals to be photographed, I withdrew my request for a recount because it was impossible to track the custody of my precinct’s ballots. 

Summary

ORS 254.483 states that all County Elections officers "shall" destroy unused ballots after 8:00 p.m. on election night.  This long-standing state law exists to prevent one means of election fraud.

Why don’t the secretary of state and the state’s chief elections officer want counties to obey ORS 254.483?  Why, instead, does the state instruct counties to ignore state law – a state law that the legislature has four times resisted the secretary of state’s efforts to change?  After years of tracking the life of our Oregon mail in ballots from printing to sending to voting to delivery and to counting, I believe there should be no doubt as to the motive for flouting our legislature’s mandate and keeping thousands of fresh, blank ballots on hand for recounts, instead of promptly destroying them as the law requires.   

The only reason that Mr. Trout and the state can come up with for keeping thousands of blank ballots on hand for a recount is that a few of them are used – re-marked by hand – to replace damaged ballots that can’t be counted by machine.  This is a specious reason; damaged ballots can be replaced by ballots on specially-colored paper, or simply tallied by hand. 

We must insist that our ballots are treated as Oregon Election Law requires.  My fellow candidates and I, and most importantly the voters of the First Congressional District, are entitled to be assured of a fair election tomorrow. 

A full investigation needs to be implemented right away to determine exactly how our ballots are handled and why the Secretary of State's office has systematically defied ORS 254.483 year after year. 

No one is above the law, and no elections official is above the state’s elections laws. 

Please spread the word about this travesty to all of your contacts so that we can at long last have a fair and legal election. 

Sincerely,
Lisa Michaels for Oregon 1st

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