The executive director and legal counsel for one of Oregon’s most high profile progressive groups face a new elections law complaint, after dropping off nearly 100 ballots to officials a day after the Nov. 6 election.
Our Oregon Executive Director Becca Uherbelau and legal counsel Steven Ungar delivered a box of 97 ballots to the Multnomah County elections office on the afternoon of Nov. 7, according to the complaint, filed by county Elections Director Tim Scott last week. One of those ballots wasn’t for the general election, but for the state’s primary election, held in May. None of them were counted.
According to Scott’s complaint, Uherbelau and Ungar “stated that they had collected the ballot envelopes from voters and intended to turn them in to our office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Other ballot envelopes were turned in on time but somehow this box was missed.”
Our Oregon spokeswoman Katherine Driessen said Thursday the gaffe actually originated with Defend Oregon, a political action committee affiliated with Our Oregon.
“Steve Ungar and Becca did not collect these ballots, which were collected on Election Day, and they were not the first to discover the ballots the day after Election Day,” Driessen wrote. “They were messengers of the mistake.”
Under state law, Our Oregon would have had to turn in the ballots within two days of receiving them, and no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. Violations of election law are typically punishable by a $1,000 fine.
Driessen said the mistake arose when “Election Day campaign staff failed to follow established ballot collection protocol. Due to this lapse, ballots entrusted to us by Oregonians were not delivered to a dropbox on Election Day.”
Defend Oregon is “deeply sorry” for the breach, she said.
Our Oregon, which receives its backing from state labor unions, is a major player in pushing progressive ballot measures in Oregon, and in fighting ballot measures pushed by conservative groups.
In the recent election, its affiliated PAC Defend Oregon was a main player in the opposition campaign against Measure 103, which would have banned taxes on grocery sales and distribution. Oregon voters wound up shooting down Measure 103, along with three other ballot measures favored by conservative groups, as Democrats and liberal causes saw widespread victories in the state.
The matter of the late ballots became public Wednesday, when Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s office issued a release saying only that “two individuals” had dropped off ballots on Nov. 7.
“The Secretary of State has opened an investigation to determine the facts and review the evidence to ensure all parties involved receive due process,” the release said.
Scott declined to comment on the record, citing an open investigation into the matter.
The majority of the late ballots, 91, came from Multnomah County voters. In addition, four were from Clackamas County voters, and one was from a Washington County voter, according to Scott’s complaint. The lone ballot from the May primary election came from Multnomah County.
All impacted voters have been sent a notice about the issue, according to Richardson’s office.