Election 2020

This Doesn't Bode Well for Vote-by-Mail: Many Oregon Voters Received the Wrong Primary Ballot

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, election worker Gary Daniels prepares ballots to be recounted at Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore. Proponents of an Oregon ballot measure requiring labels on genetically modified foods are conceding defeat. The Yes on 92 campaign said Thursday there are no other legal options remaining that could lead them to victory.(AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

Oregon famously voted in the 1990s to go to a vote-by-mail-only system for all of its elections. In Oregon’s federal and state primary elections this past Tuesday, a number of voters received the wrong ballot. Many center-right observers say that the number of errors has spiked in 2020, and have sought answers to the problem.

Oregon has a closed primary election, meaning that voters who don’t register to vote with a party cannot vote in that party’s primary for state or federal candidates. Anecdotal reports have flooded in that indicate non-affiliated voters have received ballots to vote in the Democratic primary, incorrectly allowing them to vote in the presidential primary.

Additionally, Republican voters have mistakenly received ballots designated for non-affiliated elections, meaning that they could not vote in the presidential primary, or the primary for Congress, Senate, and state legislature.

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How widespread was the problem? The secretary of state, Republican Bev Clarno, has dismissed the questions out of hand without investigation. The Gresham Outlook reported on Thursday, “The Secretary of State’s office says claims spreading online are ‘misinformation,’ or misread ballots.”

Some members of the Republican Party in Oregon say they received unwanted nonpartisan ballots ahead of the May 19 primary — with allegations flying of a vast conspiracy… or a routine mix-up.

Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, has now launched an investigation into the matter, saying he has collected hundreds of reports of changed ballots from citizens.

“I don’t hear of it happening to Democrats,” Nearman said in an interview. “Either it’s because I don’t talk to Democrats, or it’s not happening to Democrats.”

The Facebook post by the Outlook garnered dozens of comments refuting the secretary of state’s official line that they didn’t have anything to worry about:

Two of my friends got the wrong ballot. One was an independent who received a Democrat ballot, and the other was a registered Republican who received an NAV ballot.

Amelia Salvador [Republican candidate for House District 50] yes this is what I was saying to you. I’m a registered republican but I couldn’t find you anywhere on our voter information.

Not to mention my oldest daughter got a Democratic voters ballot and she is a republican. This all needs to be fixed.

Two of my grown kids got the wrong ballots! I called the Secretary of State and the elections office. Both denied any involvement, blamed the DMV.

I’ve heard from Ds that had the same. As widespread as the problem is, I’m wondering if someone made an error when importing DMV data.

It is not misinformation I noticed when I got my ballot that it said non partisan and called them they said I changed it to that in 16 and wouldn’t be able to vote anything but that in the primary

Nope they gave me and my husband and daughter wrong one’s 😠

I’m a life long Republican, my ballot came in as nonpartisan. Wife’s also.

These comments go on and on.

Other voters have reported that their ballots were returned in the mail, and never received by their county elections office. It’s unclear how widespread that problem is, but it seems like this issue has popped up more often than in previous years.

Earlier in May, News Channel 21 KTZV reported on Central Oregon voters with similar complaints:

Jody Logsdon of Redmond said she was registered as non-affiliated for years, until changing her registration to Republican in 2008. She said when she checked online, she noticed her party had been changed back to non-affiliated. She said she changed it back to Republican online, but still received a non-affiliate ballot in the mail.

It’s not just residents of Deschutes County claiming they received the wrong ballots in the mail.

Jessica Maxfield-Walters, who lives in the La Pine area and is registered to vote in Klamath County, told NewsChannel 21 she had a similar experience.

“I checked online afterwards, and it said I was unaffiliated, which was weird,” Maxfield-Walters said. “I thought when you change your party, you get a card in the mail, and I never got a card in the mail.”

Maxfield-Walters said she is not going to vote in this election because she does not feel it is right to vote under a party she did not willingly register with.

Compounding the problem, closures at county election offices due to the CCP coronavirus pandemic meant that affected voters could not go in and get the correct ballot.

Several voters created a Facebook group to start collecting these stories, and it grew to over 1,100 members since its inception on May 8. Several members of that group noted that their posts on Facebook about the ballot problems had disappeared. Most of them received a fact-check message saying that these claims were rated false by a third party fact checker, similar to this one:

Many voters have called the secretary of state’s office to complain, and have gotten nowhere so far. One member of the Facebook group published their email exchange with the office:

From: Greg *****
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2020 9:39 AM
To: ‘SOS Elections * SOS’
Subject: RE:
Thank you, but your information is not correct. That was the third time I have had to change my party. I did it in 2016 and again last year when I discovered the change.
Thank you for confirming but your system has a bug, it’s not reporting accurately.
Greg *****
From: SOS Elections * SOS [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2020 9:20 AM
To: *********
Subject: RE:
Good morning Greg,
Our office received your email expressing concerns that voters’ party affiliation may have been changed without their knowledge. This is misinformation and has not occurred in any instances we have researched for individual voters. Most often a voter forgot how they were previously registered, often years before their recent inquiry, or they changed their party after the voter registration deadline which will not become effective, and not display publicly, until after this election is certified. Any voter who is concerned about their registration or party affiliation can contact our office or their county clerk for more information. County clerk information, and other information about Oregon election law and Vote By Mail can be found here: https://sos.oregon.gov/voting-elections/Pages/default.aspx
I have researched your voter profile and there was a voter registration card submitted in 3/2005 the party selected was non-affiliated.
I want to give you a peace of mind your party was updated on 5/20 to Republican via online registration.

So far, most similar follow-up inquiries seem to have gone unanswered, categorized as misinformation.

For a state that has used vote-by-mail exclusively for going on 25 years, the number of complaints received this cycle has to cause greater concern than we currently see. Going into an emotionally charged general election in which Donald Trump stands for reelection, many states have considered vote-by-mail as an alternative to regular voting under pandemic lockdown.

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Oregon’s example this primary season should give the rest of the nation pause, at least until these claims receive a proper investigation.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

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