VALE – From a crowded field of mayoral and city council candidates to measures to ban the production of psilocybin – magic mushrooms – in virtually every part of Malheur County, the nearly 18,000 voters registered to vote in the county will decide on consequential races and measures in this year’s midterm election.
Meanwhile, as the shadows of claims of a stolen election in 2020 hang over this year’s midterm elections, Malheur County Clerk Gayle Trotter is working to curb fears of voting irregularities and allegations of fraud.
‘There’s always something wrong’
Trotter said her office last summer received many more public records requests from people unhappy about the results of the 2020 election. Trotter said her office had not received any so far for the current election. Once all the ballots are in, she expects questions from those who are unhappy with the results on the right or left.
“That’s just the way it is,” Trotter said. “Whichever side doesn’t win, there is always something wrong.”
Trotter said she does not expect those questions to come from the local, nonpartisan races but rather from the partisan races, primarily from the close gubernatorial race between the former Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan, where polls show the two in a dead heat.
So far for this election, according to Trotter, people have expressed deep distrust and have told her the integrity is not there when dropping off their ballots and at least one call expressed the same sentiment.
Trotter said as ballots are sorted, verified and counted, elections watchers are on duty from both the Republican and Democratic sides. She said there are more on the GOP side this year than in years past.
She said with Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, the votes that come in on Election are sorted by precinct and then set aside in a locked room.
About six days before the election, an extraction board of four election workers, not all from the same political party and who had signed an official oath and had been sworn in to uphold all election laws, will begin to pull ballots from envelopes.
Trotter said state law now allows counting ballots postmarked on or before Election Day but received by her office in the days after.
She said envelopes must be clearly and legibly postmarked and can be accepted up to seven days after Election Day.
Who is registered to vote?
According to the Oregon State Secretary’s office, 17,790 residents in Malheur County are registered to vote, about a 10% increase over a year ago.
Of those, 8,240 are nonaffiliated, 6,331 are Republicans, 2,373 are Democrats and 585 are Independents. Other parties such as Libertarian, Progressive and Pacific Green each have less than 100 registered.
What’s on the ballot?
Running unopposed for Malheur County xommissioner is Jim Mendiola, a local businessman, who defeated incumbent Don Hodge in the May primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Additionally, Trotter, Treasurer Jennifer Forsyth and District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe are running unopposed.
Ontario mayor: Deborah Folden, a business owner; Eddie Melendrez, a city councilor; incumbent Mayor Riley Hill.
Ontario City Council: McShane Erlebach, Penny Bakefelt and incumbents Michael Braden, Susann Mills and Ken Hart are running for three open seats.
Vale: Along with Mayor Tom Vialpando, Jeremiah Strohmeyer, Christine Phillips and Monty Bixby are running unopposed for Vale City Council.
Nyssa: Pat Oliver, Juan Ramos, Mark Shuster, Ron Edmonson, Betty Holcomb, Jerry Holmes and Morganne DeLeon are running for Nyssa City Council. According to Trotter, the three candidates with the most votes will serve a four-year term. The fourth-place finisher will serve two years.
Holcomb, Nyssa’s current mayor, is seeking re-election. The new council will select the next mayor in January.
Adrian: Karen Olsen, Carlos Mendoza and Tom Pierce are running for three open seats on the Adrian City Council.
Jordan Valley: Mary Aguila and Michael White are running for two seats on Jordan Valley City Council. No candidate filed for position No. 4, so a write-in candidate could win.
As for ballot measures, in addition to voters being asked to decide whether they want to see the manufacturing of psilocybin – otherwise known as magic mushrooms – banned in virtually all of the county, with measures on the ballot for the county and every city in the county, residents will also decide on whether the county should impose a tax on the retail sales of weed.
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