If someone tries to fix an Oregon election by voting “early and often,” as the old saw has it, I’m convinced that Oregon’s vote-by-mail system has made this kind of fraud infinitely harder. I would say it’s impossible, considering the procedures in place to make sure everything is legit.
This came up the other day when someone in Roseburg went online and reported that he received three ballots in the mail. He showed a photo of three ballot envelopes addressed to him, and he implied that this was proof our Oregon elections were being rigged.
Jim Clausen, an Albany resident who speaks out on many issues, called my attention to the Roseburg claim. And he said he too had received multiple ballots — two in his case.
For an explanation I went to Linn County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller and his chief deputy, Marcie Richey. It is not exactly unheard of for voters to end up with more than one ballot, I learned. In Clausen’s case, he had changed his registration just after the 62,000 Linn County ballots for the Oregon primary election had been prepared for mailing. When Clausen switched from unaffiliated to Republican, a new ballot was prepared.
In each Linn County election, Richey estimates about two dozen voters change their registration after the time when the whole batch of ballots has already been prepared for mailing. Election workers pull the old ballot when a new one is made up, but sometimes they miss one, and this happened here.
Druckenmiller says there are various reasons for voters getting multiple ballots. The most common: Someone calls and says he didn’t get a ballot, so a new one is issued. Or a voter says the ballot is lost and can’t be found, or that the voter made a mistake and needs a new ballot. And then, it turns out, the original ballot turns up under the pile of stuff on the kitchen counter. Or the voter has memory problems and just forgot the ballot he had, or that he already cast the one on which he thought he made a mistake.
Does this matter? Not to the election outcome.
The system is designed so that no one can vote more than once, no matter how many ballots he receives or tries to cast.
When ballot envelopes arrive back at the county clerk’s, election workers sitting in front of computer screens scan the bar code on each one. That causes an image of the voter’s registration card to pop up so that the signature on the card can be compared with the one on the ballot envelope. If the signatures match, the envelope with the ballot inside is cleared for further processing. (Not without a lot of record-keeping, though, as Richey showed me on Thursday. Each envelope is logged when received and when cleared, for example.)
But if a voter attempts, inadvertently or otherwise, to vote more than once by casting more than one ballot, the screen says: “This voter has already voted.” The ballot is set aside, and someone is likely to contact the person to ask, “Hey, what gives?” Or words to that effect.
In short, no matter how many ballots you send back or hand in, your vote can be counted only once. (hh)