Some vow to recall county clerk after alleged ballot tampering revealed

Some vow to recall county clerk after alleged ballot tampering revealed »Play Video
Clackamas County temporary election worker Deanna Swenson was relieved of duty right after the alleged ballot tampering was discovered.

OREGON CITY, Ore. – The alleged ballot tampering in Clackamas County's elections division comes after a high-profile mistake two years ago under the direction of Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall.

During the May 2010 primary election, Hall's office misprinted ballots that included two races that were slated for the November general election. The mistake cost taxpayers $120,000.

There were no allegations of wrongdoing in that case.

A recall effort of Hall is now underway after Friday's revelation that a temporary county election worker allegedly tampered with ballots. Clackamas County identified that worker as Deanna Swenson late Monday afternoon. Spokesman Tim Heider said Swenson was relieved of duty right after the alleged ballot tampering was discovered.

"The Clackamas County Elections Division and the Elections Division of the Secretary of State are cooperating to ensure that every ballot marked by the voter will be counted as intended and that any ballot alteration in violation of election law will not be considered," he said in a statement.

Heider said Swenson is not a county employee and worked part-time at the elections division.

But organizers of the recall effort seeking to remove Hall from office say it shows a history of ineptness. They say this is just one more example of Hall not keeping a close eye on things. They say her mistakes and inability to oversee her own workers are not only costing taxpayers a lot of money but they are casting serious doubt about the integrity of the elections she runs.

Voters outside the election office Monday morning said Hall should shoulder the blame.

"It's frightening. It's very, very frightening," said Robert Sears. "In an election like this where it is extraordinary close, to have anything out of the usual happen calls everything in question."

Rich Murphy, however, doesn’t blame Hall but the worker who allegedly tampered with the ballots.

"Whoever did the crime will do the time," he said.

Hall declined to speak with KATU News about the alleged ballot tampering or about her record as clerk. But in a letter to KATU News, she said she is cooperating with the Department of Justice investigation into the tampering.

Hall was re-elected to office in 2010. The office has a four-year term.

Organizers of the recall said if Hall doesn't step down, they will proceed with the filing and signature gathering.

"If she's really got the best interest of the county in mind, she's going to resign," said Dave Adams, a recall organizer.

Meanwhile, reporters with Willamette Week went to Swenson's home Wednesday afternoon. WW asked her how many ballots were involved and reported that she tearfully replied, "Only the two."

She told WW that she hadn't yet hired an attorney. She did not answer any other questions.

Investigators say Swenson used a pencil to fill in empty ovals, but the original voter used a pen. They say they're searching for this pattern in every ballot she handled.

Investigators confiscated all of those ballots but won't say how many or what they'll do with them.

At an emergency meeting Monday, county commissioners asked whether the voters who had tampered ballots will get to vote again. The answer to that is no, because the ballots are secret and who voted those ballots can’t be known.

But every ballot has a barcode and investigators can track those to the volunteers who inspected them but not back to the voters.

KATU News reporter Dan Cassuto contributed to this report.