When do we get primary results?

Today is the last day to return your ballot for this year’s primary. We already know the outcomes for uncontested races, but it may be a couple of weeks before we get results in other races. The key factor is always how many ballots each county needs to count. As of Monday evening, state turnout hit 22.5% of potential ballots. In the last two midterm primaries, we saw turnouts of 34.1% and 35.9%. It’s possible that we may hit that level of turnout this year, but we won’t know for at least a week.

One of the reasons some election results will take more time to tally this year is due to changes in ballot submissions. This is the first election where ballots postmarked on Election Day will count, even if they don’t arrive at the local elections office for up to seven days after the election. Any challenges to results or any errors that require hand counting ballots will also slow down results.

While voters and candidates may file recount demands, both county elections officials and the Oregon Secretary of State can also request recounts. Elections decided by less than one-fifth of one percent of total votes are automatically recounted.

Starting at 8:00 p.m. today, election results will be available on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website. Final election results will be certified on June 13.

Errors and issues in the primary process

This election has been a bit bumpy. There have been several issues that made the election more complicated than it needed to be, including:

Most of these issues won’t slow down counting votes. That last error, however, means Clackamas County votes will take extra time to tally. On May 4, Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall announced that there was a printing error with primary ballots that resulted in blurred barcodes. The barcode on each ballot doesn’t have voter identification information. It is, however, necessary for the optical scanners used to count ballots automatically. As a result, the scanners will reject valid ballots. In order to count votes correctly, Clackamas County election workers will duplicate ballots and then rerun them through the scanners. Two people will work on each ballot and they must belong to different political parties. The original ballots will be kept on file. While Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan held a press conference suggesting that the duplication system is automated, that statement was incorrect and she’s since corrected it.

The blurred barcodes may be the result of supply chain problems: Moonlight BPO, the printer Clackamas County uses could not get the paper usually used for ballots in time and had to replace their toner with a new brand. Clackamas County initially started working with the printer in question ten years ago due to their certification by Hart InterCivic (which manufactures the vote scanners used in Clackamas County). Hart InterCivic has since ended their certification program.

It’s unclear how many voters received ballots with blurred barcodes. Estimates suggest as many as two-thirds of all Clackamas County ballots could have the error. While Clackamas County has used their duplication process before on individual damaged ballots, it’s difficult to guess how long the process will take. A key factor is how many ballots are returned tonight and arrive in the mail over the next week. In Oregon’s 2018 primary, 32% of voters submitted their ballots on Election Day. In addition to impacting results for Clackamas County races, this issue will slow down results for City of Portland, state legislature, state executive, and Congressional races. Early estimates put the cost of addressing the problem around $100,000 to $125,000, but solid numbers are not yet available.

Hall will be on the ballot in the fall. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first election she’s overseen with concerning results. In the 20 years since she was first elected as Clackamas County Clerk, there have been a variety of issues, including:

This election is wrapping up, but what about the next election?

The next election scheduled in Oregon is August 23 — it’s a standing election date to handle recalls, replacements, and other matters that pop up in between other elections. Currently, Multnomah and Washington Counties have nothing listed for the August election. However, Clackamas County will be voting for five at-large seats for the Oak Lodge Water Services Authority District. The deadline to file as a candidate is June 16.

Work on general election campaigns will kick off as soon as candidates know the results of primary races. Because there’s a bit of a window for the next few weeks, I’ll be taking some time off from updating PDX.Vote. I expect to start updating again at the beginning of June.

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from Autostraddle.com to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at ThursdayBram.com.