A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Deprived of a chance to vote? Not so fast

Written October 29th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller and Chief Deputy Marcie Richey in the Linn County elections office.

Facebook last week reverberated with a complaint from a Lebanon mother that a particular set of circumstances resulted in her son being deprived of a chance to vote. I looked into it, and the upshot is that he can vote after all if he wants.

The complaint was that the son, 28 years old and living in Lebanon, didn’t get a ballot; the clerk’s office told the mother when she called that he was not mailed a ballot because in a previous election the signature on the ballot envelope didn’t match his; his work schedule kept him from contacting the courthouse to straighten this out; and therefore he could not vote.

I talked to Linn County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller and Marcie Richie, his chief deputy.

There’s a process, obviously. When ballots come in, the envelopes are scanned to see that voters have signed them and the signatures match the ones on file. Questioned envelopes are examined by two staff members. If both see no signature match and Druckenmiller agrees, the sealed envelope (with the ballot still inside) is challenged and set aside. The clerk’s office then mails a letter and a new registration card, inviting the voter to submit the new card so the ballot can be counted.

In the Lebanon case, the mother recalls no such mailing. It’s possible there was a breakdown  somewhere along the line.

Marcie Richey told me the clerk’s office challenged the signature on the son’s ballot in the Jan. 23 special election on a statewide health tax referendum. A letter presumably went out to him then, but I could not pin this down at this late date. When the clerk got no response, the man’s voter registration status was changed to “inactive.”

On Aug. 8, though, according to an “audit log” Richey told me about, the state election database generated a “confirmation card” telling the voter about his inactive status and how to become active again. Nobody seems to remember that card having been received.

Regardless of missed connections in the past, it’s not too late in this case. I learned — and passed the information on — that the voter can activate his registration online without having to take time from work. He’ll be mailed a ballot and can deposit it in a drop box before the 8 p.m. Nov. 6 deadline.

The mother let me know late Monday that her son “registered online today. If all goes well, they will be sending a ballot.”

Problem solved, it seems. Let’s hope the various Facebook critics of our elections system get the word. (hh)

11 responses to “Deprived of a chance to vote? Not so fast”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    Finally, time for my voting story.

    Once upon a time, not too long ago and not too far away, my vote decided the political balance for 2 years of a county twice as populous as Linn and Benton combined, with wealth comparable to that of Portland. It would have been 4 years except that litigation took up the first 2 years.

    I often wonder if I made the right choice. The only significant issue was growth, which would have needed the county joining a disastrous state water project, a position favored most by “conservatives” (my perceptions at the time which may have been faulty). I voted for the “no” candidate. Now that I live in an area where growth is limited mostly by NIMBYism, I tend to choose “yes.”

    Many examples (mine didn’t make the list):

  2. Bryan says:

    -“his work schedule kept him from contacting the courthouse to straighten this out” (I call BS)
    -“the mother recalls no such mailing”
    -“Nobody seems to remember that card having been received.”
    Yeah, sounds like everyone’s fault but his own. He’s 28 years old, time to let him grow up mommy.

  3. Katherine Domingo says:

    I have been a poll watcher in the past. Our system is the best. The nation should adopt it. No long lines, outdated machines and several eyes on the ballot process.

  4. Lundy says:

    I don’t want to appear nasty, but as the father of a 28-year-old myself, I did find myself wondering throughout this story why a mother was taking such an active role in her 28-year-old son’s voter eligibility. That struck me more than the signature/DQ issue.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      It struck me too, Lundy. And nasty you are definitely not.

      Generation Snowflake kids need more parents like you.

      Your common sense parenting gives me hope for the future.

  5. Michelle Garrett says:

    As the Mother, I can perhaps help clarify some of your comments. He didn’t know there was a problem until the ballot was not received. He works a 10 hour day and there is little time to make personal phone calls. I offered to make the contact. I was told several things that were incorrect by the clerk who answered the phone. 1st, she told me his voe in the Presidential election had not been counted because of the signature problem. She also insisted there was no way to fix this without coming in at this late date. Both of those bits of info were incorrect, as determined by the elections office after Hasso inquired. They were able to offer him the chance to register on line-as late as yesterday. They’re mailing him a ballot so he’ll be able to vote and in looking at his record, he has voted in all of the elections until May. I believe they sent out the letter but it was not received. It could have been lost in the mail. As to the Snowflake, my son has been working (sometimes 2 jobs) since he was 15. He is an exceptional employee with an outstanding work ethic.

    • centrist says:

      Thanks for the clarification and for helping the lad out.
      To the negatizers, I have two things —
      There’s no barbecue sauce for crow.
      “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble. It’s what we think we know that ain’t so.” (Will Rogers)

  6. Lundy says:

    Michelle, congrats on having raised a hard-working son who cares about participating in the democratic process. Again, I wasn’t trying to be a “negatizer,” rather was just sharing a reaction. All parents and kids are free to develop their own relationship dynamics as they see fit. In addition to a 28-year-old, I have a 30-year-old. I hope they’re both squared away voting-wise, and I believe they are, but I’m comfortable having no firm knowledge of that one way or the other.

  7. Avid reader 1 says:

    Why in the world would you be comfortable, Lundy, with your background (your name for Hasso’s site is a giveaway) with not knowing if your grown kids vote or not? Everyone, now and then, needs a little talking-to, if they aren’t voting. Our nation is at stake here.

    • Lundy says:

      Because they’re well into adulthood and responsible for their own decision-making regarding civic involvement and everything else. If they want my advice or input, they can ask. Otherwise, it’s their life. They both seem to be doing fine without me trying to steer their ships.

  8. Rebecca Landis says:

    Our electoral system is better than most in the nation. I do think we have room to improve the signature process. Few had a clue how many submitted ballots were going down the drain until the 2014 cycle, when the list became public and campaigns had a chance to help voters cure the issues. Surprisingly many people were just annoyed and let their ballots die.

    There needs to be a regular process for updating signatures as we age. My signature might be from 1991, unless I did my 2009 move in person. Age and disability change signatures a lot.


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