As States Consider Vote by Mail, Does Oregon’s System Stand Up to Scrutiny?

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Oregon first approved its vote-by-mail-only (VBMO) system in 1998. Since then, while some have accused the system of widespread fraud, multiple secretaries of state have certified it as secure. So, how does Oregon’s VBMO system stand up to scrutiny? Can it serve as a model for other states that are looking for ways to maintain social distancing during the CCP coronavirus pandemic? How much voter fraud actually goes on?

Oregon’s Republican secretary of state certainly doesn’t think much fraud occurs. Bev Clarno (R-Redmond), the 84-year-old who served as the Speaker of the House in 1995, was appointed by Governor Kate Brown (D-Portland) to finish out the term of Dennis Richardson (R-Eagle Point), who died in office in 2019. She appeared on 60 Minutes over the weekend in a piece designed to refute President Trump’s claims that mail-in balloting could lead to rampant fraud:

Clarno touts her willingness to work across the aisle as Speaker, even when the Republicans held a large majority in the Oregon House. No doubt this, as well as her familiarity with Kate Brown from their days together in the legislature, led the governor to approach her at Richardson’s funeral about filling out his remaining term. (Note that the Democrats have not returned the favor of working across the aisle with their supermajorities in both branches of the legislature the past two years in Oregon.)

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Her defense of Oregon’s system amounts to, “Try it, you might like it.” She claims that only 22 Oregon voters were discovered to have voted in two states in 2016, and that’s the end of that.

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Is that all there is to the story?

Not according to Hans von Spakovsky. Von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Institute, has criticized vote-by-mail for many years. He appeared on Fox News Saturday to detail his concerns:

Von Spakovsky, a former commissioner for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), notes that absentee and mail-in ballots are the most prone to fraud or to being stolen, and that these voters are the most vulnerable to intimidation and pressure.

He also blasted Oregon’s VBMO system, saying that the state does not have any protocols in place to detect fraud. Von Spakovsky cites a study in Portland by a university professor in which five percent of voters in one county admitted that somebody filled out their ballot for them, and 2.5% admitted that someone else signed their ballot.

Oregon never detected the malfeasance.

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The Oregon Tea Party PAC helped to fund an examination of voter rolls many years ago in which voter registrations were compared to Social Security records. That study found a large number of deceased voters that were still active in the secretary of state’s database, meaning that they had never been purged from the Oregon voter rolls. It’s not hard to imagine those ballots being mailed out, and someone filling them out and returning them.

More recently, the Oregon legislature passed a state-level Motor Voter law, in which all citizens who have a driver’s license or state ID are automatically registered to vote. They are then sent a postcard advising them that they are registered, and offered the chance to affiliate with a political party. Oregon passed a law in 2019 approving driver’s cards for illegal aliens, subverting the 2014 ballot measure that made them illegal. The legislature assures the public that there’s no way holders of these driver’s cards can be registered to vote.

So how, exactly, could bad actors commit fraud and affect election outcomes?

Long time Oregon politicos Jim Pasero and Bridget Barton detailed their concerns in an op-ed at the Washington Examiner. They urge other states NOT to follow the example of Oregon, citing the widespread practice of ballot harvesting:

In 1998, Secretary of State Phil Keisling introduced vote-by-mail to Oregon and the nation. At the time, it seemed a decent idea. But Keisling, a good government reformer, forgot one thing — to secure the ballot box. He instead left it wide open for 20 days in every election. Between special elections, primaries, and general elections, Oregonians can literally spend months in the middle of an election.

The late Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, Oregon’s only Republican statewide officeholder in 18 years, examined vote-by-mail and found very little “Chicago-style” fraud. What he didn’t examine, and what Oregonians have had to deal with, is a more complicated corruption, and an insidious part of the vote-by-mail process known as ballot harvesting.

Here’s how that works. County election offices provide voter lists to campaigns. These lists include information about what political party a voter is registered in and how often they vote. Voters are characterized as 4×4 voters (voted in the last two general elections and primaries), 3×4 voters (skipped one of the last two primary elections), 2×4 voters, and so on.

But in Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, county elections offices don’t just disclose your party registration and voting history, they also regularly inform campaigns of the status of the voter’s ballot, usually daily throughout Oregon’s lengthy 18-day voting window. Ballot harvesting is when campaigns determine exactly which voters have already turned in their ballots, and then they come after those who have not. Lots of phone calls, lots of door knocks, lots of robocalls. If you purposely wait to vote until the last day (savvy voters have realized that many major scandals haven’t surfaced until the final days of a campaign), the efforts border on outright harassment.

In a primary election, most 1×4 and 2×4 voters are not as likely to vote. That’s when the unions go to work. Dozens and dozens of public employee union workers build and track voter files daily on Democrat-leaning voters. Then they turn their public employee armies loose to gin up votes for their candidates.

They go on to detail how public-sector unions are the only entity in Oregon with the ability to turn out the vote on such a massive scale.

Guess where the vast majority of their votes and their money go?

Nothing like this exists for the Right in Oregon, or in any other state. Barton and Pasero further explain that this extended election cycle means campaigns need to spend far more money after ballots hit mailboxes. It’s a three-week period in which targeted campaign spending–radio and tv buys, digital ads, mailers, paid canvassers, and more–greatly increases the cost to run for office.

Bottom line, they write: “Keeping the voting booth open for 18-19 days while campaigns have constant, daily access to voters’ status is anathema to clean campaigns and good government.”

Other states that have tried vote-by-mail experiments have seen fraudulent activity. It seems insurmountable to put proper fraud protection protocols in place in such a limited timeframe, and train secretaries of state and their staffs across the nation how to spot fraud like this.

Indeed, this played out in the May primaries in several states. In Butler County, Ohio, for instance, over three hundred ballots ended up arriving late and were unable to be counted.

Meanwhile, this announcement by the postal worker’s union won’t inspire confidence:

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Shorter APWU: we need more money now, and Biden will give it to us. Also, allow us to handle your ballots. Totally secure and unable to be manipulated.

There are simply too many variables, too many potential pitfalls, and too many blind spots to allow the next election to be decided predominantly by vote-by-mail. America needs more election security, not less.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

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