An error causing about 500 incorrect ballots to be mailed out for the May 20 primary election could result in a new election for the District 5 seat and cost Clatsop County somewhere between $3,500 and $4,000.
Clatsop County Clerk Maeve Grimes said the estimated amount includes the ballots, envelopes and postage. The counting of ballots would likely be done by county employees without the help of election workers because the district only has about 3,500 registered voters.
The ballot mix-up has been attributed to a data entry error that put 147 voters from District 2 in District 5 and 344 voters from District 5 in District 2.
District 5 candidates Dale Barrett and Lianne Thompson are somewhat frustrated with the situation. Although Thompson led Barrett by 99 votes after the final unofficial count, 60 incorrect ballots were received from voters, which has now resulted in an election limbo for the position.
Grimes said she will likely contest the District 5 results after they are certified some time before June 20. A Clatsop County Circuit Court judge will have to make a decision whether a new election is held.
During the run up to the election, Barrett says he found discrepancies between his voter list and map for the districts voting precincts. On or before April 22, Barrett recalls going to the election office and pointing out that the list didnt match up with the computer-based geographic information systems (GIS) map outlining voter precincts and districts.
I found out people werent on the list and I had downloaded the map of the GIS, he said.
Don Van Osdol, elections deputy, did some digging around for Barrett, but couldnt explain the discrepancy, Grimes said. She said she was not made aware of Barretts inquiry until May 20 and after her office received phone calls from two voters who noticed the error May 19.
They didnt take it any further when I challenged it at that point, said Barrett. Ive pretty much lost faith and trust in the county myself. They could have corrected the ballots at that moment and re-sent them out.
Ballots were mailed to voters May 2. Grimes said the county was only alerted to the error by the two voters and did not receive any other calls pertaining to the mistake. Previous elections have been held since the redrawing of districts in 2011 when population data from the federal census was updated.
Grimes said there was no indication from voters of the mistake during Commissioner Sarah Nebekers election to the District 2 seat in May 2012, which represents part of Seaside, Gearhart, Clatsop Plains and part of Warrenton.
Its like three strikes and we finally found it, said Grimes of the error. The county will not be able to go into the system and change the error until after the May 20 vote is certified.