Oregon elections worker suspected of altering ballots

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Investigators have found six ballots that were potentially altered by an elections worker in Clackamas County, but the full extent of the alleged ballot tampering was still under investigation, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown said late Tuesday.

The six ballots will be counted if the original voter's intent can be determined, Brown said in a statement. Her spokeswoman, Andrea Cantu-Schomus, said all other ballots will be counted normally.

Campaign operatives watching tight races that could determine control of the Oregon House had the investigation on their minds.

Melissa Unger, who heads Democrats' efforts to win a House majority, said they were concerned. Officials have said the worker is suspected of marking Republican candidates on races the voter left blank.

"We just don't know the scope of the problem yet," she said. "Until we find that out, I think it will be difficult for people to feel comfortable with the results coming out of Clackamas County."

State officials have refused to release more details about the investigation, including how many ballots might have been handled by the worker, whom officials have identified as Deanna Swensen, of Oregon City. She has not been charged.

Jeff Manning, spokesman for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said he couldn't provide details about the investigation or when authorities might be able to release more information.

"There's clearly a lot of angst in Clackamas County," he said. "It's really bad timing, and I can understand there is high anxiety."

County counsel Stephen Madkour said the investigation appeared to be wrapping up, but it would be some time before any conclusions were made public.

Madkour said the alleged tampering was reported last Wednesday by another elections worker sitting at the same table with Swensen processing ballots. The allegation was that Swensen was using a pencil to fill in blanks on ballots that had been filled out in pen.

Clackamas County Republican Chairman John Lee said no races are going to be so close that they could be determined by the small number of ballots identified in the investigation so far.

But Unger said Democrats are keeping an eye on three tight House races that include voters in Clackamas County - districts 37, 40 and 51.

"All three seats would be on anyone's top 10 targeted districts that will decide the majority in the entire state," she said.

Clackamas County Democratic Chairman Larry Skidmore said the election for Clackamas County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan was also very close.