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About Northwest labor press. (Portland , Ore.) 1987-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 3, 2006)
...Ballots are safe in Oregon
(From Page 2)
work for a Voter Protection operation
in Oregon. Gacek came away confi-
dent that the state will be free of prob-
lems on Election Day. Still, the Oregon
AFL-CIO, the group Our Oregon and a
group called the Rural Organizing Pro-
ject are helping recruit and train elec-
tion observers. Local union members
also are expected to step forward as
“The New York Times” reported
that votes in about half of the 45 most
competitive congressional races — in-
cluding contests in Florida, Georgia
and Indiana — will be cast on elec-
tronic machines that provide no inde-
pendent means of verification. Such
machines have fanned concerns that
they may be subject to computer hack-
ing or fraud, and are creating doubt
about election outcomes.
Oregon, on the other hand, uses a
vote-by-mail system. Vote-by-mail al-
lows for a paper trail, which makes a
recount possible if questions or chal-
lenges arise. County elections depart-
ments in Oregon use an optical scanner
machine to count ballots, and observers
are allowed at each stage of the mailing
and handling. In Multnomah County, a
permanent staff of 15 (including 12
members of AFSCME Local 88) main-
tain the records of 395,000 registered
voters, and oversee a large staff of
trained temps during each election.
Some Republican campaigners in
Oregon have alleged that illegal immi-
grants may be casting ballots, in viola-
tion of U.S. law.
“My response is, ‘Give us a name,’”
says Multnomah County Elections Di-
vision Director John Kaufman.
Kaufman says no evidence whatso-
ever has been presented to elections of-
ficials. Oregon doesn’t require voters to
prove citizenship to register, but
would-be voters risk five years in
prison if they falsely swear they are eli-
gible. As of Jan. 1, 2006, federal law
requires that new registrants, in order
to be able to vote for federal candi-
dates, provide documentation — either
a state-issued ID or drivers license, or a
Social Security number.
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom
Chamberlain said there’s some concern
that naturalized citizens may be intimi-
dated from voting, along the lines of a
case last month in Orange County,
Calif. where voters with a Hispanic
surname received a letter saying they
could be jailed or deported for voting.
To guard against that kind of misinfor-
mation, the Oregon AFL-CIO placed
ads in small papers with high Latino
readership with information about
“The bottom line is, regardless of
what your last name is, if you’re a citi-
zen, you have the right to vote,” Cham-
Another concern sometimes raised
about the vote-by-mail system has
been the possibility that unscrupulous
individuals could fill out the ballots of
others. But Kaufman says that would
likely be deterred by elections workers’
practice of checking all signatures
against those on the registration card.
Multnomah County has an elabo-
rate system that enables workers to
quickly verify signatures against a
scanned image of the signature. Work-
ers are trained by a signature expert
who formerly worked in the Oregon
State Police forensics lab. Voter rolls
are kept up-to-date with information
from death certificates and DMV
records, while registrants who fail to
vote in two consecutive federal elec-
tions are mailed a card they must return
to remain on the rolls. Each ballot must
be returned in a secrecy envelope in-
side another envelope that is printed
with a unique bar code and the voter’s
name and address. Once delivered by
the post office, ballots are kept in a
locked location in the elections office,
which is guarded by security.
“No system is perfect,” said the
AFL-CIO’s Gacek, “but my personal
view is that Oregon’s is a good sys-
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