SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s elections director was abruptly fired in a text message by the secretary of state after he pointed out serious issues with the state’s aging and vulnerable technology for running elections.
Elections Director Stephen Trout learned in a text message Thursday night - as his department and county elections officials were still counting votes from the Nov. 3 election - that he was out.
On Friday, Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican appointed to the position by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, announced to county clerks and other elections officials in Oregon’s 36 counties that “today is also Steve Trout’s last day with the Agency.”
Election officials in the state were stunned.
Steve Druckenmiller, the veteran Linn County clerk, said Clarno’s action was “dangerous and so ignorant.”
“We are still in the election process right now. We are reconciling, we’re dealing with problems right now as far as your signatures and communicating with voters who didn’t sign the ballots,” Druckenmiller said. “We’re going to have to do recounts, all of these things. She doesn’t understand elections.”
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Clarno’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trout, in a letter emailed on Nov. 2 to the Republican and Democratic candidates to replace Clarno, who did not run, described problems with the internet technology side of the secretary of state’s office.
He also said federal money had been misspent and that $11.7 million from the federal government must be returned by Dec. 31 because the Legislature did not authorize to “spend a penny” of the funds.
This happened even as the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration system is so old that Microsoft no longer supports the Windows Server 2008 system that it operates on.
The secretary of state’s office was going to take bids - officially known as request for proposal - in October for a new system, but Clarno paused this project without consulting with the county clerks or Trout, the ousted election director said.
Furthermore, Trout said calls by himself and other election officials for third-party verification systems to prevent Oregon from hacking of election systems went unheeded.
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