By Taylor W. Anderson

The Bulletin

Extra ballots in past primaries

2008 — 68,667

2012 — 26,379

2014 — 23,785

2016 — 96,036

Oregon printed and sent nearly 100,000 extra ballots during the May primary, more than in any of the recent presidential or midterm elections, state data show.

Of the state’s nearly 2.3 million registered voters, 96,036 either needed duplicate ballots because they changed parties near the deadline or received one when a county clerk sent an extra ballot by mistake, as happened in one Eastern Oregon county.

All that extra mail adds to the cost of running elections by mail, but staffers for Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins say Oregon’s online registration system tracks each ballot and invalidates the first ballot if more than one ballot is issued to a voter.

“When any ballot is received at a county, the system can immediately identify whether it is the appropriate (most current) ballot,” said Laura Terrill, Atkins’ chief of staff.

County clerks who administer elections say they need to begin preparing Oregon’s mail-in ballots before the registration deadline because it takes time to ready the thousands of ballots that are mailed to voters.

In many cases, clerks mailed ballots for one party — or nonpartisan ballots to voters who belong to no party and therefore couldn’t participate in a partisan primary election — and needed to mail a second one after the voter changed parties by the deadline.

In Grant County, the county clerk accidentally mailed hundreds of Independent Party voters the Democratic Party’s ballot. The clerk sent the correct ballots shortly after and the first ones were invalidated.

The cost of those extra ballots falls to the counties. Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship in May estimated she produced around 3,600 duplicate ballots. She wasn’t in the office Friday and couldn’t update the figure, but the state estimates each ballot including staff time costs $2.39.

That would mean Deschutes County is on the hook for around $8,600 for the extra ballots. The entire state will pay just under $224,000, according to Atkins’ office.

Oregon law lays out an elections calendar that set April 26 as the last day for eligible voters to register and for registered voters to join a party. The following day is the first day county clerks can begin mailing ballots.

The primary was also the first year of Oregon’s so-called motor voter law, in which eligible voters are automatically registered after they interact with the DMV. The program added nearly 101,000 new voters between Jan. 1 and April 26.

Each of those new voters needed to join a political party to vote for one of the mainstream presidential candidates.

As of the deadline, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New York businessman Donald Trump were still in the Republican race. Cruz and Kasich would back out before Oregon’s May 17 primary. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were also fighting for Oregon through the Democratic primary.

The late party changes led to more duplicate ballots being issued than in any primary dating back to at least 2008, according to the secretary of state’s office, even after accounting for the difference in the number of registered voters.

Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, said the spike is likely linked to the new registration law and excitement about the presidential races.

“In 2008, there was anecdotal evidence that a lot of people were switching parties to vote for Obama,” Moore said. “With Motor Voters, they’re switching to vote, period.”

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,

tanderson@bendbulletin.com

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