Elections, Politics, Washington County

Saturday election update: Biden, ballots, Brad Witt and Brian Stout

A sign supporting presumptive vice-president Joe Biden in Gales Creek. Photo: Chas Hundley

This will be our last regular daily elections update; we’ll have a story for the results of House District 31 once there’s enough certainty to determine a winner, as well as stories and interviews with new and returning elected officials. Support our work with a subscription here.

With most major media organizations calling the election for the 46th president of the United States for former Vice-President Joe Biden, the presumed president-elect gave a victory speech on Saturday evening

He was joined by presumptive Vice-President Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman to become vice-president, the first Black woman to hold that office, and the first Indian-American woman to hold that office. 

Despite giving no evidence to back up his claims, outgoing President Donald Trump claimed the election was rigged, his defeat a mark of electoral graft, not a result of voters choosing someone else. His unfounded claim that election observers were barred from viewing ballot counting — which does not hold up under scrutiny — was debunked by his own lawyers.  

In an all-caps tweet on Saturday morning, the president stated his erroneous belief that he had been victorious. 

“I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” was the tweet, made about an hour before nearly every major news organization determined that a mathematical win for Trump was impossible and called the race for Biden. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney was among some prominent Republicans to push back against the president’s falsehoods surrounding the election. 

Romney noted in a statement that Trump was within his rights to request recounts and to call for investigation into alleged irregularities in the electoral process when there was evidence of such, but that Trump “is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so weakens the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundations of the republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions.”

During his remarks on Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden struck a tone of unity. 

“I am a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. “I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as for those who did.”

Until states have fully certified the election, each of which have differing deadlines for that process, and until the U.S. electoral college meets on December 14 to officially cast their votes — a largely symbolic gesture — Biden is not officially president-elect, despite many major newspaper’s claims to the contrary. 

In Oregon, the process of certifying the election results falls ultimately to Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican who did not run for the office, which she was appointed to after former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson died while in office. 

In Oregon, votes and the results of an election are certified 30 days after the election; this gives time for county elections offices to finish their counts, and allows for voters to correct “challenged” ballots. Every election, a number of voters either forget to sign their ballots, or their signature on the ballot envelope is determined to not match what is on file for that voter. 

According to Washington County spokesperson Philip Branford, the county has about 1,700 such ballots this election. 

“About half of these have signatures that we believe do not match what is in the registration file and the other half came in envelopes that were not signed,” he said in an email to the Gales Creek Journal.

Voters with these issues will receive a letter sent via the United States Postal Service, giving them until November 17 to fix the error, or their ballot will not be counted in the final results. 

The process of “curing” these ballots, as the process is sometimes known as, means that close races — such as the House District 31 race between incumbent Brad Witt and Republican challenger Brian G. Stout — can result in a wait to see if ballots that are corrected will swing toward one candidate or another. As of the latest available results, just 518 votes separate the two, with Witt in the lead.

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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