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June 25, 2022

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As Clackamas tally drags on, Oregon state House race uncalled

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OREGON CITY, Ore. — The results of a state House race are still unclear nearly a month after Oregon’s primary election because of vote-counting delays in Clackamas County.

County Clerk Sherry Hall said election results won’t be updated until June 13 — the state’s election certification deadline — leaving the outcome of the Democratic primary for House District 38 up in the air. Hall told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she would wait until the statutory deadline to release final results because of confidentiality concerns due to the small number of ballots left to count.

The contest between Lake Oswego City Councilor Daniel Nguyen and school board member Neelam Gupta for the district that includes Lake Oswego and southwest Portland is incredibly close and may go to an automatic recount. Nguyen led Gupta by just 14 votes with about 2 percent of votes left to be counted in Clackamas County as of Thursday, when the county last updated its results.

The county also manually inputted incorrect results in the House race on the Secretary of State’s website, an error that briefly made it look like Nguyen had a significant lead. The secretary of state corrected the error after being alerted to the mistake by the media, the newspaper reported.

The delayed results are the latest blunder by Clackamas County’s elections department. The outcome of several other races, including the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, were delayed because vote-counting machines rejected tens of thousands of ballots printed with blurry barcodes.

The county finished processing the majority of ballots on May 30, 13 days after Election Day. However, the county still had 2,404 ballots left to count, including 1,105 ballots that still needed to be duplicated, as of June 2.

Chrissy Erguiza, campaign manager for Nguyen, said Clackamas County elections officials said the campaign is frustrated by the delay and eager to see the final results.

“All of us are really eager to see the final results, not just for the campaign, but for voters who want to know and should know the outcome,” Erguiza said.

Gupta’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Clackamas County had been updating its election results daily at the request of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan after Hall failed to plan a massive in-person effort early on to hand-duplicate tens of thousands of ballots marred by a printing error. The bungled response to a problem discovered two weeks before the election left many key primary races hanging for over a week after Election Day.

The county finished processing the majority of ballots on May 30, 13 days after Election Day. However, the county still had 2,404 ballots left to count, including 1,105 ballots that still needed to be duplicated, as of June 2.

Ben Morris, a spokesman for Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, said she can’t determine whether the House District 38 primary needs to go to an automatic recount until Clackamas County finishes tallying its ballots.

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