Ruth Bendl Testimony on HB 4171


ATTENTION: House Rules Committee Co-Chairs and Members

The following testimony relates to the contents of LC 309, which has yet to receive a bill number, which could occur at any time and with very short notice.

I’m urging the House Rules Committee to oppose this soon to become bill for the following reasons:

1. This soon to become bill constitutes a second effort by state elections official to repeal ORS 254.483, an extremely essential electoral safeguard mandate, which stipulates that ALL unused ballots have to be destroyed IMMEDIATELY after 8.00 p.m. on election day.

2. ORS 254.483 is vital because of the vast numbers of unused ballots since the adoption of Vote By Mail, not to mention the countless trays of undeliverable ballots that are returned to election offices. All of which was not the case prior to Vote By Mail when the vast majority of “unused ballots” were located at the numerous polling places and usually didn’t arrive at election offices until well after 8.00 p.m.and were already tallied.

3. ORS 254.483 is an Oregon Revised Statute which was approved after Vote By Mail was adopted, and does NOT contradict ORS 253.045 as contended by a recent Legislative Counsel opinion. ORS 253.045 dates back to the 1979 system of voting at polling places so was no longer, for the reasons stated above, appropriate. In fact the lengthier version of ORS 254.483 that can be found in the 2004 election law book, designates the task of preparing the “unused ballots” for destruction, to the the numerous temporary hire election board members, that are at the election offices, a number of days before election day.Thus the unused ballots would be ready at 8.oo p.m. election day for the Shredding Company to destroy them at the time stipulated by ORS 254.483.

4.There is good reason for a long appreciated rule of NOT having “unused ballots” anywhere around election offices premises once election count results start to be released. Nor are “unused ballots” even necessary. Votes on problem ballots can just as easily be recorded on Tally sheets which can list the votes for candidates and issues (according to precincts and/or ballot styles) with a corresponding number on both the ballot and Tally sheet. The results from the Tally sheets can then be added to the counting machine results, when the county election staff do their “Reconciliation Process” prior to certifying the election results. This was a solution recommended by a county clerk!

5. State election  officials, who swear to uphold the law, should also be asked on what legitimate authority, and for what reason, they have been instructing county election officials NOT to comply with ORS 254.483?

I do have a letter from Washington County Elections director, in response to my request to the County Commissioners to instruct county election staff to UPHOLD ORS 254.483. The letter states that it was the recommendation of the Secretary of State, to disregard the law due to some undisclosed “contradictions”, I have given a copy of that letter to Co-chair Rep. Andy Olson.

6. In closing, I regard the Amendment to ORS 254.074, in this bill/LC, as totally inappropriate. There should be just one set of Security rules mandated for all 36 county election offices, and those procedures should not be kept secret by the Secretary of State. Especially after her subordinates have been instructing county election staff NOT to comply with ORS 254.483, which as stated above is a vital election law mandate and safeguard.

So please do NOT support the bill that LC  309 is due to become.

Ruth Bendl, Washington County Republican Party Voter Integrity Chair

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