Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said Tuesday that Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall has accepted Fagan's help in meeting the state's deadline for processing the county's ballots from the May 17 election.
"At this point, I’m in the trust but verify category," said Fagan, who met with Hall and Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith Monday night to discuss the dilemma.
A printing error with Clackamas County's ballots discovered prior to election day required elections staff to duplicate each of the marred ballots by hand, greatly delaying the county's election results. The printing error disproportionately impacted Democratic ballots, leaving many Democratic primary races undecided long past election night. As of Monday night, just over 50 percent of all Clackamas County ballots have been counted. The elections office has until June 13 to count all the ballots.
On Monday, Fagan gave Hall a 24-hour deadline to produce a timeline of when Fagan can expect updated election results from Clackamas County. Up until Monday, Hall had rejected Fagan's assistance in the process no less than three times.
Fagan explained Tuesday that her office does not have the legal authority to "take over" Clackamas' elections office, as it's the secretary of state's job to oversee county elections operations—not run them.
"I have acted within my maximum legal authority," Fagan said. "Only the county clerk can conduct this election. We do not have authority to take control of any county’s election system."
Fagan does have the power to intervene if Clackamas County's ballot numbers don't reach her office by June 13. After that deadline, Fagan said she could seek a court order to force the elections department to continue counting.
"I have authority to make sure every vote is counted," said Fagan.
Representative Janelle Bynum, who represents parts of Clackamas County, has called for the state legislature to get involved in what she's called the "Clackamas County election debacle," asking that a legislative inquiry be opened into Hall's alleged failures to sufficiently address the ballot problem.
"As a Clackamas County candidate and voter, this is simply unacceptable," said Bynum in a May 21 press statement, adding that the delay in ballot counts is dangerously similar to reports of voter suppression in other states and countries.
"Now, more than ever before, it is important to have elections systems that are timely, accurate, and supportive of two of our nation’s most cherished rights: the right to run for office and the right to vote," said Bynum.
On Sunday, the Oregonian Editorial Board called for Hall's resignation over the issue. The editorial pointed to Hall's previous missteps as the county's top elections director, like when she cost the county $100,000 in 2010 after placing the wrong race on primary ballots.
Fagan deflected questions about whether she would also call for Hall's resignation Tuesday.
"As long as [Hall is] the clerk, I will work directly with her to get her election results to my office," said Fagan.
Hall, who has served as Clackamas County Clerk since 2003, is up for election in November.