Voter rolls in Columbia County are a "great reason for concern," says St. Helens resident Kathy Cooper.

On Wednesday, May 4, during the public comment period of a regular county meeting, Cooper presented canvassing data from a portion of one Columbia County precinct to the Board of Commissioners.

Cooper told the Board how she used a voter roll from January 2021 and canvassed 44 addresses, which gave her information on 226 registered voters.

"Of those 226 voters, 98 did not live at the address where they were listed as living on the roll. That's a 43% error rate on the rolls for our sample groups," she said.

Cooper brought in guest Dr. Douglas Frank, a teacher, chemist, and mathematician from Morrow, Ohio, to provide insight on voter roll anomalies in Columbia County.

"We've begun an effort where we're going to begin canvassing throughout Oregon. We'll probably begin in Columbia County, where we're going to be canvassing and investigating all these anomalies that we're finding in your rolls," he said.

During his testimony, Frank estimated there could be a 10% margin of error in ballots submitted to the county.

"What we've already begun finding (is) exactly as I predicted, not because I'm some genius, but because I've looked at so many other states, I've seen what happens," he said. "This new movie coming out, 2000 Mules, is confirming exactly what we've been finding when we do canvassing. We'll find the same sorts of things in your county."

In 2021, Frank faced media backlash for making claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen during a keynote speech he delivered at a Trump rally in Ohio. 

County response

The Chronicle asked Elections Supervisor Don Clack what precautions his division takes to verify voter roll accuracy.

"Columbia County works with the Oregon Elections Division (OED) to regularly update voter registration lists to remove deceased people, people who have moved, and other changes that impact eligibility," he responded.

According to Clack, Oregon is a member of the Elections Registration Information Center (ERIC), a national data-sharing system that ensures sharing of up-to-date voter registration information across states.

The county Elections Division also compiles monthly reports from the USPS, state agencies, and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Clack told The Chronicle that the three employees charged with verifying ballot signatures in Columbia County have 22 years of combined experience and are all trained by a daylong in-person course.

According to Clack, the Elections Division takes the following steps to verify a ballot per the Oregon Vote by Mail Procedures Manual:

1. When a ballot has been returned by the voter, the signature on the return identification ballot envelope is compared to the signature on the voter’s most current registration record. If the return identification ballot envelope is unsigned, the ballot is only accepted if the elector provides a signature either by signing the return identification envelope or by providing the no signature attestation form.

2. If the signature does not match the most current registration record review, all signatures contained in the registration record in OCVR to determine the validity of the signature. Power of attorneys may not sign the return identification envelope for a voter.

3. If the signature matches a registration record in OCVR, the ballot is accepted and will be tabulated.

"We invite anyone interested in observing the process to join us at the elections office and see our work in action," Clack said. "The process is completely transparent."

Vote By Mail in Oregon

In December 1995, Oregon became the first state to hold a primary election entirely by mail, according to the Multnomah County website.

Ballot Box

Ballot boxes as shown are located near public offices throughout Columbia County.

In 1998, just a few years later, proponents of the Vote By Mail (VBM) system spearheaded an initiative to expand VBM to primary and general elections, which passed in the November by a vote of 757,204 to 334,021.

Since its passage, Oregon's voter turnout has jumped from 51% in the 2000 Presidential Primary to 86% in the 2004 General election.

Today, eight states allow all elections to be conducted by mail, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, the National Conference on State Legislatures reports.

Columbia County Elections Division officials say they will review the information provided by Cooper's testimony and issue a report to the Board after the May election.

Follow this developing story online at thechronicleonline.com and in Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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