Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Newsletter From Dennis Richardson, Oregon Secretary of State
Last month, President Obama designated state elections as “critical infrastructure” under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Implemented by Executive Order, the “critical infrastructure” designation by DHS was foisted on the states without consultation of any Secretaries of States or elections officers across the nation. I believe its implementation should be stopped until the consequences of this DHS empowerment can be thoroughly analyzed.
My concern has been elevated as it appears this Executive Order is being acquiesced to by the new Trump Administration. As the administrator of Oregon’s state elections, it is clear to me that any elections “infrastructure” policy by the Federal government should only be implemented if it has been proven to be in the best interest of our current decentralized, state-controlled election system.
Recently, I wrote President Trump directly on this issue, and last week I traveled to Washington, D.C. to discuss it with 40 other Secretaries during the National Association of Secretaries of State Conference. The urgency is this, once a federal agency assumes authority to intervene in a state’s constitutional duty to conduct fair elections, such an encroachment will be nearly impossible to supplant. There has been no information released by either President Obama’s or President Trump’s administrations to justify this “critical infrastructure” designation, so I am fighting it.
My letter to the President stated that Oregon’s November election results were tabulated correctly and that President Trump’s accusations of voter fraud through internet hacking were not relevant to Oregon due to our use of paper ballots. But, counting ballots correctly is not enough.
Restoring trust in Oregon’s election system requires more than just counting ballots correctly—it also requires confidence in our voter registration system. Voter registration is a much different issue than tabulating votes on election night.
It goes without saying that all eligible Oregonians should be able to register and vote. Key tenets of my administration are to ensure more accountability and integrity to the processes and systems of the Secretary of State’s office.
To restore greater trust in Oregon’s voter registration system, the Elections Division staff has begun to step-up their maintenance of the state voter file. As a starting point, we’re reviewing addresses where more than ten ballots are delivered. Surprisingly, 6500 addresses have been identified--mostly fraternity and sorority houses, senior care and assisted living facilities, and R.V. parks. So far, in our evaluation of these data sets, we’ve encountered only two that appear to be fraudulent. We trust and we verify.
We are also cross-checking voter registration with public records like death certificates. We want to ensure a clean voter file while also maintaining voter privacy. That way, we can ensure everyone who is qualified and registered to vote gets a ballot. In addition, duplicate ballots can be a problem for states. For example, in a recent election, Oregon records show approximately 95,000 duplicate ballots were mailed to Oregon homes. Although we have measures in place to assure only one ballot from a registered voter is counted, we are working diligently to reduce the number of mailed duplicate ballots to avoid confusion and reduce costs.
In short, my job as Secretary of State is to protect and administer the elections system assigned to me by law, and to do so in a non-partisan, transparent and honest manner. While no system is perfect, I’ve been pleased to see the dedication and integrity exemplified by our county and state elections staff. I will continue to work diligently to support every effort to improve Oregon’s elections at all levels of government.
Finally, I will do everything in my power to protect our state’s elections system from an unwarranted, and possibly unconstitutional, intrusion by federal agencies and Presidential Executive Orders.
Oregon Secretary of State