Stephen Trout was unhappy in his job as Oregon’s director of elections and planned to leave it, but before he could quit on his own terms his boss, Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, fired him. “I could tell this morning that you were unhappy,” Clarno wrote in a text message, obtained through a public records request, that informed Trout he no longer had a job. “I thank you for all you have done for SOS, and I wish you the best in your next endeavor.” The text message was sent at 4:08 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5, just two days after this year’s general election. Workers at county elections offices throughout the state were still counting ballots and tabulating votes. But now, the last day for the director of the state’s elections division, housed in the secretary of state’s office, would be Nov. 6. Trout had wanted to leave his job since at least the spring of this year, an email obtained through a public records request revealed. In fact, he was interviewing for jobs and had also informed Clarno in an Oct. 27 email that he had told potential employers that he would be ready to work for them starting Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Oregon Secretary of State-elect Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, said she will examine the “critical warnings” that the state’s former elections director voiced before he was fired last week by the incumbent secretary of state. In a blunt memo to Fagan and her Republican challenger on the eve of the 2020 election, Oregon Elections Director Stephen Trout said some of the state’s election systems are running on an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting last January, pointed out an absence of multifactor authentication to access those election systems and raised other issues. He said the current state of technology and lack of support in the agency made his job impossible. “Oregon’s former Elections Director, Steve Trout raised critical warnings that concern me as Oregon’s next Secretary of State,” Fagan tweeted late Tuesday, Nov. 10. “I spoke with Mr. Trout personally this week and we plan to speak later this week and go through his memo together, line by line.” Trout also said the secretary of state’s office used federal funds inappropriately and may need to be returned after an audit. It is unclear who would do an audit if it comes to that with no conflict of interest, since the secretary of state’s office runs the audits division, besides being in charge of elections.
Oregon elections director fired after sharing security, spending concerns | Andrew Selsky/Associated Press
Oregon’s elections director was abruptly fired in a text message by the secretary of state after he pointed out serious issues with the state’s aging and vulnerable technology for running elections. Elections Director Stephen Trout learned in a text message Thursday night — as his department and county elections officials were still counting votes from the Nov. 3 election — that he was out. On Friday, Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican appointed to the position by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, announced to county clerks and other elections officials in Oregon’s 36 counties that “today is also Steve Trout’s last day with the Agency.” Election officials in the state were stunned. Steve Druckenmiller, the veteran Linn County clerk, said Clarno’s action was “dangerous and so ignorant.” “We are still in the election process right now. We are reconciling, we’re dealing with problems right now as far as your signatures and communicating with voters who didn’t sign the ballots,” Druckenmiller said. “We’re going to have to do recounts, all of these things. She doesn’t understand elections.” Clarno spokeswoman Andrea Chiapella said Trout was “a knowledgeable advocate for the democratic process on our team” and that he planned to leave on Dec. 15 anyway. Deputy Director Michelle Teed has been named acting elections director, Chiapella said. Trout said in an email to The Associated Press that although he had already planned to seek a new job, he did not want to go this soon.
Oregon’s vote-by-mail is a big win for citizens to cast their ballot in the primary under the shadow of the pandemic. But there are big changes at elections offices trying to keep socially distant while handling hundreds of people who show up needing help. Elections offices are trying to find way to maintain physical distancing for all those who show up — people who didn’t get a ballot or have a problem with the ballot they did get. People can order ahead for a replacement ballot and have it brought to them at a nearby parking lot — sort of like a Ballot-to-Go. The threat of the coronavirus also affected the usual army of seniors who are longtime workers at county offices during elections. Many are staying away for personal safety since they are in the high risk group.
Oregon: ‘A 20-year history of success’: GOP Secretary of State says Oregon shows mail-in voting is secure, effective | Pat Dooris/The Oregonian
Oregon voters began marking ballots that came to them in the mail back in the early 1980s. According to former Secretary of State Phil Keisling, the tradition began with the Linn County elections clerk who wondered why the county was sending sample ballots to voters and not the real thing. That soon changed and in the mid to late 1980s, many local elections in Oregon featured ballots that were mailed to voters. It really took off after the resignation of Oregon Senator Bob Packwood in 1995. Keisling was the Secretary of State at the time and had just seen a fellow Democrat, Gov. John Kitzhaber, veto a bill passed by the Legislature that would have instituted vote by mail for statewide elections. The Packwood election gave Keisling the opening he needed. “Under Oregon law that was a special election. And a special election could be done in this manner and we had the nation’s first ever federal election using all mailed out ballots to everybody and turnout went through the roof. Participation hit 66%,” he said.
Oregon’s primary elections will proceed as scheduled on May 19, the state’s top election official said Thursday, though results may be slower to come in because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several states, including Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia, had recently announced they were moving their primary elections back over COVID-19 concerns. “Because Oregon votes by mail we do not have to be concerned about social distancing issues at polling places that so many other states are struggling with,” Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s office said by email. Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess noted that ballot counters are normally sitting at tables in fairly crowded rooms and are often over 60 years old, and among the vulnerable population to COVID-19.
Two Oregon counties are offering the opportunity for U.S. military members, their dependents and others living overseas to vote in special elections this November with smartphones, officials announced Wednesday. While some technology experts have warned that such systems could be insecure, the two counties have already advised hundreds of registered voters living overseas about the option to cast ballots using blockchain-based mobile voting. Oregon residents normally vote by mail. Jackson County Clerk Christine Walker expressed confidence in the system and said it will help ensure that the votes of those overseas will be counted. She noted that overseas mail systems can be unreliable and that she was very worried that Washington’s threats to pull the United States from the United Nations’ postal agency would prevent voters overseas from casting ballots. “We need to make sure that our military and overseas voters have the not only ability to vote, but they can easily access their ballots in a safe manner,” Walker said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “There was a potential crisis going on.”
Oregon has an advantage over many other states because voters here decided to go to a vote-by-mail system in 1998, said Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, who oversees local elections. That eliminated the need for voting machines at polling places. “I think we’re one of the leaders in election security,” Walker said of Oregon. The Jackson County Elections Division does have tally equipment to count all those votes that come in by mail. But Walker said the equipment isn’t connected to the internet — a setup that thwarts would-be hackers. Jackson County’s tally equipment is only two years old, she said. “We try to keep up on the technology to make sure the votes are tallied the way the voter intended and to give confide once in the system,” Walker said.
Oregon: On Election Day, Oregon Senate passes bill requiring future election audits | Associated Press
County clerks in Oregon would be required to audit results after each election under a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Election Day. The bill approved Tuesday requires county clerks to conduct hand-count or risk-limiting audits after every primary, general and special election. Risk-limiting audits are based on counts of statistical samples of paper ballots. Sen. Lew Frederick, a Portland Democrat, said the bill ensures more audits happen to make sure election results are correct. The bill requires audits after every election, instead of just general elections. It goes next to the House. Heading into the 2020 cycle, a new report out Tuesday provides a stark warning about the cyber-insecurity of the highest-profile U.S. political organizations even after years of concerted efforts to improve digital safeguards and an intense focus in Washington on the need to secure campaigns and elections.
Calling the America of the early 20th century a “man’s world” is an understatement. In most of the country, women were not considered full citizens. The march toward women’s suffrage — and the rights that came with it — was slowly moving ahead. But setbacks were common. In Oregon, women found themselves once again shut out of the larger political process. In the fall of 1908, the state’s male electorate dealt the suffragists one of the most resounding blows in their long battle for voting rights. Men overwhelmingly voted against granting suffrage to women. It was the movement’s fourth defeat since 1884. Meanwhile, a young woman in the state’s capital was quietly making political history. On a Saturday morning in February 1909, Carolyn B. Shelton took a seat at the Oregon governor’s desk in Salem. She was the nation’s first female governor.
Oregon’s paper-ballot voting system in the state has never been more accurate or secure, though the number of phishing attempts targeting election officials has increased, the state’s elections director said. Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout said he himself has been hit by a dozen phishing attempts since July. In all of 2017, he had only one or two. Phishing is an attempt to trick people into sharing sensitive information such as passwords and usernames, often by inducing them to click on a bogus link or by pretending to be an entity. The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials advised Trout and others attending a security summit this week that there has been a huge increase in phishing attempts in the nation, targeting elections officials and other critical infrastructure such as energy and banking sectors, Trout told journalists Tuesday.
The state office in charge of Oregon’s elections was granted funding from the Legislature for an Internet security position to protect against Russian government interference and hacking by others, officials said Tuesday. While Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, said Tuesday in Washington that the U.S. response to Russian meddling and disinformation campaigns has not been strong enough, Oregon has been taking steps to bolster its cyberdefenses. A letter signed by Oregon Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings asked for $166,348 to cover the cost of the new IT security position, saying “Oregon was one of 21 states targeted by Russian government cyberactivities.”
Oregon: Former Oregon Secretary of State Files Elections Complaint Against Current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson | Willamette Week
Former Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins today filed an elections complaint against the man who succeeded her as the state’s top elections officer, the current Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. Atkins is a Democrat and Richardson a Republican. The complaint comes in response to a newsletter Richardson published earlier this week, in which he commented on a scathing audit his audits division did of the Oregon Health Authority, which has been under fire for making more than $100 million in erroneous Medicaid payments.
The Oregon Democratic Party won’t allow non-affiliated voters to take part in its 2018 primary. At a party meeting in Portland on Sunday, a resolution to open the Democratic primary did not get the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The idea was to increase votes for Democratic candidates next year.
A task force created by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is recommending that future redistricting be done by an independent commission. That would be a significant change from the current model, which tasks Oregon lawmakers with drawing up a plan. Redistricting is the process of drawing new legislative and congressional districts to match shifts in population. It takes place every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. Oregon’s next redistricting will occur in 2021. The current method of allowing lawmakers to draw the maps is “susceptible to political manipulation,” Richardson wrote in a newsletter announcing the task force report. “There is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing legislators to draw their own districts and pick their own voters.”
Oregon City’s Roxane Riseling said it was “very weird” to get a letter from the elections office for her daughter Megan saying that signatures didn’t match after the September police-bond measure; the same thing happened to both the mother and daughter in two different recent elections, and they say that their signatures “haven’t changed.” Clackamas County has some of the highest proportions of ballots being rejected because county elections officials determine that the voter’s signature on the ballot doesn’t match their registration card.
Oregon: Legality of Oregon Secretary of State Richardson’s election rule change questioned | The Register-Guard
A change in the rules for collecting initiative petition signatures in Oregon, proposed by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, may be on shaky legal ground, according to a preliminary analysis by the Legislature’s lawyers. Richardson, a Republican, wants to let the backers of initiative petitions start gathering signatures before their ballot title — the neutral, summarized descriptor of what the measure would do — is finalized. Under current practice, backers must wait until their ballot title is approved by either the Oregon attorney general or the state Supreme Court, a process that can be lengthy due to legal disputes about what wording is the most accurate and fair.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson said Thursday that he plans to change the type of voter registration information that is publicly available after receiving a second request from President Trump’s election integrity commission. Richardson said the commission’s June 28 request for specific — and not all publicly available — information about Oregon voters raised privacy questions and prompted “a full legal and policy review.” He announced a new policy that covers the kind of voter registration information a political party or organization can purchase from the state. “Balancing the need for both privacy and transparency is a critical challenge in the internet age,” Richardson said.
States may soon have another option for accessible ballots as an HTML ballot provider for 36 counties in Oregon considers service in new states. Five Cedars Group, which creates downloadable HTML ballots for the blind and disabled, is undergoing certification in California and also considering expansion to Ohio, both of which have faced voting discrimination lawsuits related to accessibility. The move marks a pattern of states looking toward new technological capabilities to address compliance issues with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a law passed following the 2000 presidential election that ensures all voters have the ability to cast secret ballots privately and independently.
Oregon continues to lead the way in expanding voter access with the passage Monday of Senate Bill 802 which gives 16-year-olds the ability to pre-register to vote. Under current Oregon law, an otherwise qualified person who is at least 17 years of age may pre-register to vote. This legislation will lower that to age 16 so that Oregon is able to include, as part of the Motor Voter law, the nearly 20,000 16-year-olds who are licensed in Oregon every year. Without this change, it could take another eight years before those individuals again interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles and are automatically registered.
A new report released today by the Center for American Progress’ Liz Kennedy and Rob Griffin, along with voting experts Tova Wang and Professor Paul Gronke, provides a demographic and geographic portrait of how Oregon’s automatic voter registration system (AVR) — the first in the nation — has expanded the state’s electorate and registered hundreds of thousands of eligible citizens to vote. The findings of this exclusive new analysis provide strong evidence in favor of AVR, not only given the increase in people registered to vote and voters, but also how the program has succeeded in making Oregon’s voter rolls more representative of the state’s population by registering younger, less urban, lower-income, and more ethnically diverse individuals. The report is accompanied by a robust set of graphics and charts as well as a video and an interactive map that brings the story to life by showcasing the regions and communities that benefited the most from AVR, displaying both the percentage of AVR registrants in an area as well as their participation rates on election day.
Oregon’s six Democrats in Congress want to spread the state’s vote-by-mail law across the country. Both of Oregon’s senators and four U.S. representatives announced the introduction of a bill Thursday that would require “every state to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mail,” according to a statement. The bill summary promises that Congress would cover the postal costs for implementation. The Democrats argue vote-by-mail would help increase voter participation — in contrast to efforts at the state and federal level that they characterize as suppressing the vote.
Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson on Tuesday announced plans to reinstate thousands of Oregon voters on the inactive list and keep thousands more from lapsing into inactive status. Under current law, Oregon voters are given inactive status and are no longer mailed a ballot if they haven’t voted in at least five years. Richardson is proposing an administrative rule change to keep voters from landing on the inactive list until ten years of not voting. In his first press conference since being elected secretary of state, Richardson, a Republican, said the rule change would reinstate at least 30,000 voters and keep another 30,000 from going inactive.
In Oregon — where its first-in-the-nation automatic-voter registration system has been hailed as a pioneer in knocking down voter-access barriers — it takes just five years of failing to participate in an election before a registered voter gets knocked from the active voter rolls and no longer receives a ballot in the mail. Roughly 400,000 registered Oregonian voters have been flagged as inactive at some point in time, a number that this year is expected to grow by another 30,000 who registered during the 2012 general election when President Barack Obama was up for re-election. For Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, five years isn’t long enough. So this year, he’s doubling that timeline to 10 years.
Do Oregon voters fail to return their ballots because of the price of – or inconvenience of obtaining – a postage stamp? Two Democratic legislators think in a significant number of cases, the answer is ‘yes.’ They’re backing a bill to provide postage on mail-in ballots, at a cost to taxpayers of about $650,000 per year. “We know there are ballots out there that are not getting in,” Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, told the Senate Rules Committee on Monday. “We would like to remove the impediment that is there for some people to mailing their ballot that has to do with the postage stamp.”
Oregon: America’s First Test of Automatic Voter Registration, in Oregon, Has Mixed Results | Governing
Nearly 100,000 Oregonians who otherwise may not have voted cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election after registering to vote in the state’s new automatic voter registration program, Democratic Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said. Nearly 43 percent of voters who registered automatically after visiting a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office voted. That’s a lower rate however, than the 79 percent who registered by mail and through the secretary of state’s website. Many states were eyeing Oregon which was the first to start automatically registering voters in an attempt to encourage more residents to vote.
More than 800,000 Oregonians are living with a disability, and this week the attention is on making sure they have an opportunity to vote. It’s National Disability Voter Registration Week, and groups including Deaf People United and the Autism Society of Oregon are assisting with voter registration and voting efforts among the disability community. Esther Harlow, voting rights advocate for Disability Rights Oregon, said it’s an important week. “It’s making sure that everyone understands that people with disabilities have a right to vote in Oregon,” she said. “Regardless of whether they have a guardian, regardless of whether they can read their ballots, they still have that right to vote.”
The June data report for the Oregon Motor Voter program shows over 200,000 new records sent to Oregon’s counties for processing since the program took effect on January 1, 2016. Release of the June report coincides with the completion of Phase II, a separate phase of the Oregon Motor Program, in which 145,000 eligible, unregistered Oregonians received OMV cards in the mail giving them the opportunity to become automatically registered voters. Of those, over 120,000 Oregonians will be sent to Oregon’s 36 counties to be processed for voter registration. “It is clear that Oregon Motor Voter is changing the nature of voter registration in Oregon as we know it,” Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins said. “With completion of the second and final phase of implementation for the program, I’m looking forward to Oregon Motor Voter becoming the norm for Oregonians.”
Oregon: State expects to automatically register more than 200,000 new voters ahead of November election | The Oregonian
Oregon is on track to sign up more than 200,000 new voters in the first seven months of the state’s automatic voter registration system, the Secretary of State announced Friday. Most of those voters — approximately 120,000 — will be registered through the second phase of the program, in which the Secretary of State’s office identified eligible voters who visited the DMV in 2014 and 2015. County clerks are now registering those people to vote. Under the first phase of the law, the Secretary of State’s office and county clerks were already registering people who visited the DMV this year on a rolling basis.
Residents of a remote county in eastern Oregon where an armed group seized a federal wildlife refuge have voted overwhelmingly to keep in office a top local official who had denied the occupiers access to a county building. “I feel so good about the outcome,” Harney County Judge Steve Grasty told The Associated Press over the phone from the county courthouse in Burns. “The voters have spoken. What’s important is to move ahead, see where is the common ground … People won’t always agree but we can find what we can work on together.” Grasty had faced the special recall election Tuesday because he refused to let the activists, who said they were protesting federal land-use policies, use a county building to host a meeting. Supporters of the recall say Grasty violated rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.