The former Clackamas County elections worker accused of ballot tampering will plead guilty Thursday and receive a 90-day jail sentence, her attorney has confirmed.
Deanna Swenson of Oregon City was arrested last fall after another election worker saw her filling in ovals on ballots where preferences had been left empty by voters.
Defense attorney Jason Short said late Wednesday that a plea deal was reached in which Swenson will admit to tampering with two ballots. Besides 90 days in the county jail, Swenson will be ordered to pay a fine and perform community service.
Swenson’s change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The Oregon Department of Justice did not respond to an interview request.
Swenson was charged last fall with two counts each of official misconduct, altering a cast ballot and voting more than once.
Without the case file in front of him, Short said he was unsure of the precise breakdown of the plea bargain. He said Swenson will plead guilty to three of the six counts and the rest will be dropped.
Swenson told reporters after the arrest that her thinking had been affected by an illness and the use of a prescription drug. Short said he considered a defense that would take into account Swenson’s mental state at the time she altered the ballots.
“We still believe that her sickness combined with medications — her being very sick at the time — did have an impact with regards to her cognitive thinking,” Short said. “But in the end, the evidence was too much there for us to risk a chance of going to trial and being convicted of more counts and running the risk of a lengthier sentence.”
The misconduct occurred less than a week before the general election, creating concern that the legitimacy of some results would be questioned. The tampering, however, apparently did not affect any races. All the suspect ballots were reviewed to identify voter intent — or, in this case, lack of intent — and then counted.
Oregon was the first state to conduct elections exclusively by mail, and the November election marked the fourth presidential contest in which the system was used. Never before had an election worker been accused of such conduct.