Oregon Secretary of State Investigates 100 Ballots Delivered After Deadline

by | November 16, 2018

By Jeff Manning

A sweeping Democratic victory on Election Day wasn't enough to prevent a post-election headache for one of Oregon's most powerful party operatives and her Portland lawyer.

Becca Uherbelau, executive director of Our Oregon, and Steve Ungar, the group's counsel, have until Wednesday to explain to state regulators why they turned in nearly 100 ballots the day after the Nov. 6 election deadline. The Secretary of State's Elections Division opened an investigation after it received a complaint from Tim Scott, director of the Multnomah County Elections Division.

Uherbelau and Ungar turned in the box of ballots on Nov. 7, preventing them from being counted in the midterm election.

Defend Oregon, a political action committee affiliated with Our Oregon, apparently gathered the ballots in an aggressive and legal get-out-the-vote effort. Canvassers went door to door asking residents if they needed or wanted assistance delivering their ballots.

Scott said in his letter to the state that Defend Oregon handed in other boxes of ballots in time to be counted. The one box had apparently been overlooked until Wednesday.

Defend Oregon apologized in a written statement. "We take voting and the right to vote very seriously at Defend Oregon, and so we were disheartened to learn that late on Election Day campaign staff failed to follow established ballot collection protocol," the organization said. "When Defend Oregon learned of the mistake the next day, we immediately turned the ballots in to officials at the Multnomah County Elections office. We are deeply sorry for this mistake and breach of trust."

The incident was first reported by OPB.

In an election where ballots are still being counted in Florida and Georgia amid charges of fraud by President Donald Trump no less, Oregon's vote-by-mail system has been presented by some national media as an honest and common-sense alternative. The notion of a highly partisan group like Defend Oregon collecting untold numbers of ballots could provide political hay to critics of Oregon's system.

In its statement, Defend Oregon said it was only trying to help, "Oregonians who might otherwise face obstacles to turning in their ballots.... Defend Oregon has rigid protocols in place to ensure safe collection and delivery of ballots. But unfortunately that protocol was not followed on Election Day."

Now, the matter is in the hands of the Elections Division overseen by Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. Debra Royal, Richardson's chief of staff, said the division sent Initial queries to the parties.

(c)2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)