Elections, Government, Washington County

Voting underway in Washington County

A ballot is dropped off in Forest Grove on Sunday, October 18. Photo: Chas Hundley

The election is underway in Washington County. With ballots mailed to registered voters on Wednesday, October 14, the county elections department said that 1,252 ballots had been received as of Friday, October 16, out of 384,479 registered voters in the county.

The number is sure to rise once the elections department provides an accounting of ballots received over the weekend. 

The number represents less than 1% of registered voters in the county. 

“Please put your ballot in the mail or visit an official drop site soon,” the county said in a statement on Twitter. 

With the ballots mailed, the county has now sent voters’ guides and ballots to registered voters, though not without a hitch: Ballot measure 34-299, a measure before Sherwood voters which, if approved, would allow recreational cannabis dispensaries in the city of Sherwood was accidentally left off the voters’ guide, along with all of the arguments in favor of the measure. There were no arguments opposed to the measure submitted to the county before the printing deadline, according to a press release from Washington County. 

The issue was first noticed after the county posted what they thought was the full voters’ guide on the county elections website. On Friday, October 1 at 12:35 p.m., Sherwood city recorder Sylvia Murphy said she contacted the county, asking where the city’s measure was. 

“I routinely check the County’s website to stay up to date on elections and the availability of the voters pamphlet, particularly when the city has a measure or candidates on the ballot,” Murphy said in an email to the Gales Creek Journal. 

A supplemental ballot was drafted and sent to the households of the roughly 13,000 registered voters in Sherwood, at an additional cost of $2,903 for printing and shipping costs, an estimate provided to the Gales Creek Journal by Washington County spokesperson Philip Bransford, who noted the estimate could change once they had nailed down the final cost with the vendors who print the pamphlets. 

“In the final composition of the pamphlet’s layout, the section was not included,” Bransford said, describing what led to the measure being omitted. “The proofing procedure did not include content review; the procedure has been to review corrections from prior proofs. Sherwood had been proofed and no errors were found so the reviewers were not alerted to any documents that needed to be corrected.”

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Shortly before this story was published, the Oregonian released a story also noting multiple errors that were not caught in the text of several statewide ballot measure explanations on the actual ballot.

This isn’t the first time Sherwood has been impacted by a ballot measure snafu in the voters’ guide, though the last time it happened in 2011, the blame was laid at the city’s feet. 

In a Nov. 3, 2011 story in the Oregonian, the voters’ pamphlet included a measure that would change the city of Sherwood’s charter, and in the submitted text, included two statements that contradicted each other, an error that was not caught until a review period had already passed. 

Asked if he believed that the impact from the omission and subsequent mailing of measure 34-299 in a separate pamphlet might change the outcome of the vote in Sherwood, Bransford didn’t believe so. 

“We anticipate the voters will render their decision fairly as they would have without the omission from the County’s voters’ pamphlet,” he said.

The recommended deadline to mail a completed ballot through the United States Postal Service is Tuesday, October 27, and all ballots mailed must be received before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Oregon does not accept ballots that are received after that time. 

After Oct. 27, ballots should be dropped off at one of the county’s 21 official ballot drop sites or delivered directly to the Washington County Elections office before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3. 

More information and a history of the practice of voting by mail in Oregon can be read here

The Washington County Elections office is located at 2925 NE Aloclek Drive, Suite 170, Hillsboro, OR 97124-7523.

Washington County’s 21 ballot drop sites will close at 8 p.m., with early results announced by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office shortly after. 

This article has been updated with news of more errors discovered, this time on the actual ballot from Washington County.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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