Officials: Clackamas Co. elections worker tampered with ballots - KPTV - FOX 12

Elections worker fired over ballot tampering investigation

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A temporary elections worker has been relieved of her duties in connection with a Clackamas County ballot tampering investigation.

The county announced Monday Deanna Swenson has been removed from her position starting immediately. The incident has been referred to the Oregon Department of Justice for further investigation.

Swenson was not a county employee, according to a Clackamas County statement. She worked part-time at the elections division when the alleged incident occurred on Oct. 31.

Clackamas County officials said Monday they narrowed the number of tampered ballots to two in their investigation.

Swenson is accused of voting for Republican candidates on sections of two ballots that voters left blank.

County commissioners said the worker was observed filling in blank spaces on a ballot Oct. 31.

Ballot envelopes are opened at a table with observers registered with both major political parties, and the room has a space for the public to observe the process.

On Sunday, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced she is sending in a second state elections official to monitor the election process in Clackamas County.

Brenda Bayes, the deputy director for elections in Oregon, will join Fred Neal, who Brown assigned as an elections monitor last week.  Brown said Bayes and Neal bring more than 30 years of experience in elections.

Brown also assigned a private security guard and state trooper to oversee access to the county elections office in Oregon City.

"Voters and Clackamas County elections officials need to know that we are keeping a very close eye on the processing of ballots," said Brown. "The team I have in place, together with the investigators from the Oregon Department of Justice, are working to ensure the integrity, transparency and accountability of this election in Clackamas County."

Brown said investigators identified all the ballots the accused worker came into contact with. The investigation involved reviewing each ballot for signs of tampering.

A voter FOX 12 spoke to in Clackamas County was glad the state's election monitors would be overseeing the rest of the election process, but she didn't see how it would help with the investigation.

"The problem's already happened," said Rebecca Albrich. "So going forward what are they going to do? Cancel all the ballots that have already been dropped off? I don't see how it's going to be fair."

Clackamas County Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan also expressed her concern in a letter sent to county leaders on Sunday.

"Clackamas County voters need information on the potential extent of the problem now," wrote Lehan. "We all need information immediately about the safeguards in place to prevent ballot tampering and the methods used to hire election workers and volunteers. Without additional information about existing safeguards and about the employee in question, it will be difficult for citizens to have faith in the process. If people lose faith in the process, they may simply choose not to vote."

County leaders called for an emergency meeting Monday. In the meeting, officials urged voters to continue turning in their ballot.

"County citizens should feel assured that any ballots cast from this point forward will be treated properly" a statement from the county said. "Safeguards are in place to ensure a fair, accurate and transparent process for tomorrow's election."

Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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