Authorities said Friday they were investigating suspected ballot tampering by an election worker in one of Oregon’s most populous counties. Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall said a criminal violation of election law was uncovered by her office Wednesday and reported to the secretary of state’s Elections Division. Hall declined to identify the worker or describe the specific nature of the violation.
Oregon was the first state to conduct elections exclusively by mail, and this is the fourth presidential election in which the system has been used. Despite initial fears that the method would lead to fraud, allegations have been rare. Because it’s a criminal matter, the Elections Division referred the case to the state Department of Justice.
“We can confirm we are currently investigating criminal felony violations of Oregon’s election laws, which allegedly took place in Clackamas County and allegedly involved a temporary county elections employee tampering with cast ballots,” said Jeff Manning, a department spokesman. He said the agency realizes the timing of the allegation is concerning, and it hopes to resolve it quickly.
The Secretary of State’s Office sent an observer Friday to monitor ballot counting in the county, said Andrea Cantu-Schomus, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state.
The monitor, Fred Neal, will observe the process and report any irregularities but won’t have direct authority, Cantu-Schomus said. That power will stay with the county clerk, she added.
Officials wouldn’t say how extensive they suspect the tampering might have been. About 95,500 of the county’s 228,000 registered voters had returned their ballots as of Thursday.