Williams files complaint over District 2 ballot errorCounty commission candidate Vince Williams has filed an elections complaint against Clatsop County over incomplete ballots sent to many Republican voters in last May's primary election.
Williams claims many voters may never have received ballots listing the District 2 commission race between him and Patricia Roberts, and he wants his name to appear on the ballot in November along with Roberts.
The complaint is under review by the Oregon Secretary of State's office. Williams said he's considering whether to also file suit in circuit court to challenge the election based on the ballot error.
Williams was defeated by Roberts by a 914-815 vote in the May 11 mail-in election.
"All I want the county to do is just be fair," he said.
But according to the county's figures, not enough of the incomplete ballots were cast to make a difference in the contest.
The complaint stems from a mix-up that resulted in many Republican voters in Gearhart receiving ballots that did not include the candidates in the District 2 commissioner race. After the problem was discovered, replacement ballots with the candidates were mailed out to affected voters in one precinct, and the county elections office alerted other voters who may have received incorrect ballots through postcards and press releases to the local media, asking any eligible District 2 voter to request a new ballot if their original form did not include the commissioner candidates.
Williams said he was one of the those who received an incomplete ballot, but had to go to the county elections office to get a replacement that included the District 2 race.
"I am concerned that because I personally did not receive a corrected ballot in the mail, how many other voters did not receive one as well?" he wrote in a May 23 letter to the Secretary of State's office. "Several members of the community, who did not receive corrected ballots, are asking me to investigate the possibility that it was not a fair election."
As the winner of the primary, Roberts will appear alone on the November election ballot.
"I believe my name should be added to the (November) ballot because of the county's errors," Williams states in his letter. "This way, ALL the people of Clatsop County will have an opportunity to vote fairly."
Clatsop County Elections Supervisor Nicole Williams was unavailable for comment. In a letter to the state elections division responding to a list of questions, she explained that the mistake was traced to the company that sorted and mailed the ballots, which apparently sent the wrong version of the ballot to about 250 Republican voters in the Gearhart area.
The county must prepare several different versions of the ballot for each election - for Democrats, Republicans and Independents, who vote on different primary candidates, and for the various races for local and state offices.
According to Nicole Williams, 254 Republican voters in Precinct 25, covering Gearhart, should have gotten the Number 9 version of the ballot, but instead received version 13, which was identical to version 9 but did not include the Roberts-Williams race.
The elections office received several phone calls on the first day ballots were mailed out from voters stating that their ballots did not include the District 2 race. Eventually the problem was traced to Signature Graphics, the company the inserts and mails the ballots, where it was found that a box of ballots had been mislabeled, Williams said.
The elections office determined that 265 ballots had been issued incorrectly, almost all in Precinct 25. New, correct ballots were mailed to all 254 Republican Precinct 25 voters on May 3, but after consulting with the state elections division, the county decided that it would not be necessary to send to ballots to all 1,388 voters who received the style 9 ballot, and instead mailed postcards to those voters asking them to double-check their ballots. Ballots were given to voters, like Vince Williams, who called or came into the elections office to request them, she said.
Nicole Williams said a total of 301 new ballots were re-issued, out of which 175 were completed and returned. Only 40 of the original, incorrect ballots were cast.
The state elections office can determine whether a violation of election law occurred, but it doesn't have the authority to invalidate an election or order a candidate's name on a ballot, Buckno said. That can only be done by a circuit court judge.
"We could find there were violations of election law, but I don't foresee that happening in this case," she said.
State law allows legal challenges to elections for "nondeliberate and material error in the distribution of ballots. Suits must be filed within 40 days of the election.