A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The Clackamas ballot affair

Written November 6th, 2012 by

Voting by mail had nothing to do with the Clackamas County elections scandal. But state and county officials could have done a far better job of handling this affair.

The main thing is, they should have pressed their investigation in order to get to the bottom of it well before the last day to cast ballots. Instead, they said they could not talk about an ongoing investigation. This is the usual cop-out from authorities. Voters and citizens generally deserve better. It would not hurt for officials to say something like: “We’re still looking into it, but so far here is what we know.”

The story was that on October 31, six days before the last day to vote, somebody in the Clackamas County elections office supposedly was seen filling in the ballot positions for local Republican candidates in races where voters had left those places blank. If this is really what happened, the person will be prosecuted. The big question was how widespread that kind of fraud had been. Ballots will have to be examined to see if the ballot spots are filled in with different inks, or with different pens or pencils.

Here’s a case where ballot secrecy could be a problem. Suppose they find a ballot that looks suspicious. But the voter might not have used the same writing instrument. He or she might have started filling it out, then done something else and filled out the rest later, with a pencil instead of a pen, or vice versa. But of course the ballot itself can’t be traced, so the voter cannot be asked.

As for me, I would not mind if my ballot had my name on it in order to help in a situation like that. But that’s one reform that likely will not take place. As for blaming voting by mail, forget it. If dishonest officials get involved, ballot tampering can happen whether people vote at a polling place or through the mail. (hh)

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