After 20 years with Sherry Hall, Clackamas County will have a new county clerk overseeing future elections. Initial results show Catherine McMullen with almost twice as many votes as the incumbent.
Hall gained notoriety after the May primaries, when 300,000 ballots had to be reprocessed due to a misprint, costing taxpayers at least $600,000. Despite having known about the misprint for several days, Hall’s office repeatedly declined help from the county and the Secretary of State’s office.
Eventually, Hall’s office accepted staffing help from the county’s other departments, employing dozens of staffers and volunteers to duplicate and process each ballot. The county didn’t release official results until mid-June, over a month after Election Day.
This summer, thousands of voters in Oregon City didn’t get the correct voter pamphlets during their mayoral election. In both instances, Hall blamed third-party businesses handling the county’s ballot printing and mailing.
“Things happen,” Hall said in August. “We try to correct it, but we don’t control everybody’s work ethic or the way they do their job.”
This week, Hall’s office outlined its plan to have a 22-hour gap between posting initial results and its first update. The office was going to post its first results at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, and then Hall and her staff didn’t plan to update those results until Wednesday at 6 p.m.
That plan appears not to have panned out. The county released updated results close to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night. It’s not clear why the elections office didn’t stick to the initial schedule; a county spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
McMullen said she would have followed a different results schedule.
“I would have released results at least twice last night, if not three times,” she said.
McMullen brings several years of elections administration experience to the table. She started her career as a library assistant at the Multnomah County Library. She later studied public administration at Portland State University, where she earned an executive master’s degree. She has been working as an administrator in elections offices since 2015, mostly at the Multnomah County Elections Division.
During an interview Wednesday, McMullen said she’s going to first focus on “righting the ship in the elections office.” She said she wants to increase staffing and improve the office’s quality control measures.
“I want to work hard with the public on restoring trust to our elections here in Clackamas County,” McMullen said.
The clerk’s position comes with a $112,000 annual salary. It involves managing elections as well as public records, including marriage licenses. The clerk can also officiate weddings, but Hall stopped providing this service in 2014 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Oregon. McMullen said she’s bringing this service back.
“Making sure that every resident in Clackamas County feels welcome and gets the services from their own government is critical,” McMullen said.