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Clackamas County Vote Count May Not Be Ready Until Thursday

To meet the daily benchmark set by the Oregon secretary of state, election officials would have needed to hand-copy 8,000 ballots on Wednesday; they only processed 2,400. The county estimates it still has 35,000 ballots to duplicate.

(TNS) — It is likely to take Clackamas County, Ore., even longer than anticipated to finish tallying votes after the county badly missed a daily benchmark set by the secretary of state for hand-duplicating ballots marred by a printing error.

The county was supposed to duplicate 8,000 ballots Wednesday, May 25, to stay on track as it works to finish processing ballots. Instead, it duplicated only about 2,400, according to the secretary of state.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan provided the county with those benchmarks Wednesday after a stern press conference during which she promised to hold Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall and other county elections officials accountable amid ongoing vote delays that have left the outcome of multiple primary races hanging and sullied the reputation of Oregon’s celebrated vote-by-mail system. As of Thursday evening, Clackamas County reported tallying more than 81,000 of the 116,045 ballots it had received, or 70 percent.

The tone in Fagan’s office changed Thursday, even though Clackamas County failed to meet her benchmark, or provide the public with a daily tally of ballots that had been duplicated, as Fagan had demanded.

Ben Morris, a spokesperson for Fagan, said Thursday that the county missed the benchmark because it was engaged in “prep work” Wednesday. It is unclear why the county would have needed to take that much time away from duplicating ballots when it told the secretary of state Tuesday that it had 164 workers signed up Wednesday to duplicate ballots.

When asked how many ballots the county had duplicated Tuesday, Morris said the secretary of state did not know. The county was supposed to duplicate at least 7,200 ballots Tuesday to meet Fagan’s benchmark.

The county reported duplicating 7,543 ballots Monday – the only day for which it has publicly released data on the number of ballots duplicated.

Even though the county has yet to show it is meeting the secretary of state’s benchmarks, Morris said they were pleased to see that the county had counted more than 11,000 ballots Wednesday that either did not have the printing error or had already been duplicated.

However, the county said all the ballots that now remain to be counted are ones marred by the printing error that must be duplicated before they can be tallied. The county said Thursday that they believe about 60 percent of ballots have blurred barcodes that make them unreadable by vote counting machines.

The county reported late Thursday that it still had 35,000 ballots to duplicate.

An analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive earlier this week showed that the county could finish counting ballots by Monday if it consistently hit the Fagan’s benchmarks. It’s unclear if that’s still possible.

Scott Anderson, a county spokesperson, said Thursday that the county expects to finish counting ballots by June 2 – 16 days after Election Day. That extended timeline is based on the county only tabulating results from about 6,200 ballots per day, an inexplicably low target set by the secretary of state. The county has reported tallying more than 10,000 ballots on several days.

Anderson said Thursday afternoon that 27,000 ballots have been duplicated so far, but he would not confirm how many ballots were duplicated Tuesday or Wednesday. (Some ballots were duplicated before Election Day). When asked why the county failed to meet Fagan’s benchmark Wednesday when it duplicated only 2,412 ballots, Anderson said, “We’re reconciling this number.”

According to Anderson, the county has yet to publicly say how many ballots it is duplicating daily because it is coordinating with the secretary of state on when to post that information to its website. However, Morris said Thursday that the secretary of state has wanted that data to be made public from “day one.”

Hall, who makes $112,700 a year, and her staff first learned of the blurry barcodes two weeks before Election Day but took few steps to prepare for the onslaught of problems that they would generate.

Multiple election results hang in the balance due to the delays in Clackamas County, including the nationally-watched 5th Congressional District race in which incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader appears to have lost to progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner, at least two seats in the Oregon House, two hotly contested county commission races and the presidency of regional government Metro.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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