We should be thankful all of the time, not just around Thanksgiving.
But it was auspicious timing for the Salem City Club to have an "Elections Under the Microscope" presentation last Friday, since I came away from the presentations by Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess and Polk County Clerk Kim Williams with an increased feeling of thankfulness for the often thankless job election workers do in these divisive times.
By divisive, naturally I'm referring to the indisputable fact that one of our two major national political parties, the Republican, is in the thrall of Donald Trump, a notorious election denier since to this day he continues to falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
In addition to describing how their offices function, Burgess and Williams spoke about how the threats, intimidation, and baseless claims of election fraud being directed at election workers is creating a lot of stress.
Williams is new to her position as Polk County Clerk following the resignation of her predecessor, Val Unger, last September. In Burgess' slide presentation, he shared this description of what Unger faced after the 2020 election.
Things have gotten worse since.
Burgess described instances of recent threats against election workers in Oregon, including a letter containing white powder sent to the Lane County election office. The Postal Service notified Burgess to look for a similar letter sent to the Marion County election office. It was discovered before being delivered to the office.
There's simply no reason to be concerned about the integrity of elections in Oregon. Our vote by mail system is highly secure. Fraud is almost nonexistent.
Here's the slides from Burgess' presentation that describe the procedures used to make sure that every ballot is counted accurately. Hopefully I've gotten them in the right order (these are scans I made from a printed handout that didn't have slide numbers).
It begins with the ballot envelope that a voter signs. The bar code contains an ID number for each ballot. So once a ballot has been returned, there's no way another ballot with that number can be counted. Here's what happens after a ballot has been received. Under each image I'll repeat the text, since it is kind of small to read in the slides.
A unique ID # on each ballot return envelope records voter ballot returns statewide. The signature is verified before the envelope can be opened. Verified return envelopes are sorted by precinct. Envelopes with signature issues are set aside awaiting signature verification "cure " by voter within 21 days after election to be opened and counted.
Opening boards, comprised of Election Board Workers from different parties remove the ballot, security sleeve and other contents from the ballot return envelope. Any empty ballot return envelope is noted. The ballot return envelope is stored in a blue bin. The ballot goes to the pre-inspection board.
This room is not connected to the internet. Ballots are scanned. Teams of two EBWs [Election Board Workers] review images to assure voter intent is recorded. For instance, did the voter really vote for two candidates, or did they cross out one or otherwise indicate their choice? Results are transported outside the secure counting room by a clean USB drive to be posted on the internet.