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Media Release: Yes on Measure 92 Files Emergency Lawsuit Today

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on December 9, 2014 - 3:25am

Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          

December 8, 2014

Media Contact: Paige Richardson, (503) 358-8255 or Sandeep Kaushik, 206-355-9230 and Kevin Glenn, (971) 221-4167

Yes on Measure 92 Files Emergency Lawsuit Today on Behalf of 4,600 Disenfranchised Voters Asking Court to Order Their Votes Are Counted in Current Statewide Recount

More than 4,600 registered Oregon voters who cast valid ballots on time are wrongly being disenfranchised by elections officials – more than enough votes to potentially change the outcome of the Measure 92 statewide recount

Portland – The Yes Measure 92 has filed a lawsuit today in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of more than 4,600 Oregon voters whose valid ballots are not being counted by elections officials.

“We have said from the beginning of the recount that all valid votes should be counted, but unfortunately that is not happening currently,” said Paige Richardson, a spokesperson for the Yes on Measure 92 campaign. “That is why we are filing this emergency lawsuit today, asking for a temporary restraining order halting the certification of the Measure 92 mandatory statewide hand recount until the votes of thousands of Oregon voters currently being unlawfully disenfranchised by elections officials are counted.”

The approximately 4,600 voters all completed, signed and submitted their ballots on time, correctly following all instructions provided on their ballots, but their votes are currently not being counted because elections officials say their signatures on the ballot envelope do not “match” the signature on file.

There is no evidence that any of these voters have engaged in fraud. The vast majority, if not all, cast valid ballots. Many of these people’s signatures have changed due to illnesses or disability. Some never received notification that their signature – and their vote – is being challenged. Others tried to correct their signature mismatch with elections officials but still find their vote is not being counted.

Christine Seals of Multnomah County, one of the eight named plaintiffs on the lawsuit, is typical of these voters. Christine is a quadriplegic who used to sign with a pen/pencil in her mouth for years, but recently began using a stamp as her legal signature. She has used the stamp to vote in previous elections and to her knowledge did not have a problem. She recently received a letter from the county Election Board indicating her signature did not match but did not respond because she assumed the letter was sent by mistake given her longstanding disability which she thought was well documented in the county elections office.

“I take my right to vote very seriously, and I think it is very wrong that elections officials are disenfranchising me in this election because they’ve suddenly decided not to accept my stamp,” Christine says. “That is why I am joining this lawsuit. I cast a valid ballot, and it should be counted.”

Another plaintiff, George Harris of Multnomah County, says his signature was altered as a result of stroke he suffered on April 8, 2014. He received a letter from the county Election Board indicating his ballot was being rejected but did not respond because he was undergoing rehabilitation at the time. Now elections officials are throwing out his valid vote.

A third plaintiff is Cameron Alderman, who moved to Portland from Mississippi a year ago. His ballot was initially delivered to the wrong apartment number but after jumping through many hoops he was able to submit his ballot on time. He never received any notice from the County Election Board that his ballot had been rejected, perhaps because it was again sent to the wrong address.

“When I didn’t get my ballot initially, I tried really hard to make sure my vote got counted,” Alderman says. “I don’t know why my vote is being rejected and I’m mad about it. The judge needs to order them to count my vote.”

The lawsuit, filed against Secretary of State Kate Brown and Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott, points out that the failure of elections officials to inform voters in the ballot instructions that their signature on the ballot must match what is on file makes the decision to disenfranchise these voters without evidence of fraud or wrongdoing legally improper.

With Measure 92 trailing by a razor-thin 812 votes in the initial count, the counting of these valid votes could easily change the outcome of the recount.

A hearing on the temporary restraining order request will be held tomorrow.

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