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.
According to unofficial final results, 2,038 residents, or 70 percent of votes cast, opposed recalling Grasty; 861 residents, representing 30 percent of ballots, voted to remove him. “Looks like a strong statement was made,” Harney County Clerk Derrin E. “Dag” Robinson said.
The first recall effort in this high-desert county in 21 years underscored divisions that remain more than four months after the 41-day occupation ended Feb. 11.
The group took over the refuge in opposition to federal government overreach in the West, where a lot of land managed by the federal government. “I certainly hope, after tonight, we can work as a community to heal, let the past go, and move forward in a positive way,” Robinson said.