Early summer can seem like a quiet time for political campaigns. The primary season is over and campaigns for the general election are only just getting started. But while there may be fewer visible campaign activities going on right now, there’s a lot happening on the procedural level — steps that must be completed as part of running elections and campaigns. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’re still staring at the election results, you may have noticed that they’re still listed as unofficial. They’ll remain unofficial until certified by Oregon’s Secretary of State, Shemia Fagan. We can expect certification by June 23, 37 days after the primary election.
On Friday, the Secretary of State’s office announced a plan to audit Clackamas County’s ballots, requiring hand recounts of randomly selected precincts, as well as batches processed together. Hand recounts are a standard part of the vote certification process, but Clackamas County will be expected to complete additional recounts beyond the usual counts required of every county. On June 2, the county’s election office reported that it would not release additional updates until today, so we’ll hopefully get tallies of the last few thousand ballots that still needed processing at that time. If we’re very lucky, we may even get those numbers before Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall plans to unlock the secure ballot storage room and start administrative spot checks at 11:00 a.m.
While you may feel like you should be able to keep up yard signs year round for whatever causes you support, there are quite a few local regulations around yard signs. Multnomah County’s codes around signage cover political signs, as do sign codes in other jurisdictions. Lawn signs (including anything temporarily placed in a yard under the size of three square feet) must be removed within six months of placement. Clackamas County’s sign code requires that temporary signs can only be displayed for a total 60 days in a given year. Rules differ between municipalities.
Removing your sign for a period of time and then putting it back out is necessary to comply with the law. As a result, you may have received messages from candidates you support to bring in yard signs during the slow period before campaigning for the general election ramps up.
The enforcement of these sign codes is complaint-driven. There’s very little reporting of any political signs being taken down in the Portland-area as a result of code enforcement. However, if signage code enforcement is anything like property maintenance code enforcement, it’s likely disproportionately enforced in diverse and gentrifying neighborhoods.
Donations and matching funds
The City of Portland’s Small Donor Elections program resets after the primary, allowing candidates running in the general election to receive a second $20 from donors that will also be matched 9-to-1. If you donated to a candidate during the primary season and that candidate is on the general election ballot, it’s worth donating again. Candidates are able to access more public funds in the general election: In the primary, commissioner candidates can receive up to $200,000. In the general, they can get up to $240,000 in matching funds. However, the deadline to get matching donations in is early — October 28.
There are only two candidates for city office that are moving to the general election ballot for a run-off: Jo Ann Hardesty and Rene Gonzalez. Both are participating in the Small Donor Election program.
Hardesty’s campaign has set a goal of receiving 1,200 donations by June 30, which will max out the available matching funds the campaign is eligible. As of June 5, Hardesty had received over 600 donations. The campaign intends to focus on community outreach over fundraising, provided they hit their June goal. Hardesty was the first candidate to max out matching funds during the primary. She received 920 matchable contributions before the end of February. In addition to being able to focus on campaigning (rather than fundraising) during the primary, Hardesty was able to entirely pause fundraising and redirect donors to support abortion advocates and providers in early May. Maxing out matches early in the general campaign seems doable for Hardesty.
Gonzalez has shared little about his fundraising efforts publicly aside from occasional tweets that imply he has a higher quality of donor than his opposition. Gonzalez also maxed out matches during the primary at the end of April.
Please note, however, that the Oregon political contribution tax deduction does not reset between elections. You’re limited to a claiming a tax credit of $50 per year (or $100 if you’re filing jointly).