A ballot printing error delayed primary results in Oregon for almost two weeks. Voters elected the same county clerk five more times over the 20-year period in spite of missteps that affected two elections and cost taxpayers at most $100,000.

Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hal has been repeatedly challenged by opponents. Sherry was elected after elections in 2004 and 2011, and an investigation into state vote-tampering in 2012. Hall earns $112,600 per year as a nonpartisan officer responsible for overseeing elections, recording property transactions and issuing marriage certificates. In November, Hall will be running for a sixth term of four years in the suburban south of Portland.

Oregon’s latest scandal unfolds against a backdrop of a highly polarized political environment in which scrutinizing vote counts is becoming more commonplace. The race of local election clerks, who have been working in relative anonymity and obscurity until recently, are receiving new attention from right-wing voters, who claim that President Joe Biden won 2020.

While local elections chiefs are crucial to ensuring integrity in elections, most voters don’t know the names or functions of their county clerks. They are more likely to choose the incumbent or skip the nonpartisan race. While some county clerks may be appointed, in many Oregon counties and other places they are subject to the will of voters who may not pay attention, Christopher McKnight Nichols is an associate professor of history at Oregon State University.

He said that there is a “myopia of invisibility” about American public office life.

This is the case in Oregon’s third largest county. It highlights the importance of contests like these.

A vote-counting machine rejected tens of thousands if ballots with blurry barcodes in the current election. State officials claim that the issue affected both Democratic and non-partisan ballots more than Republican. The county had to transfer nearly 200 employees to tabulation duties. County officials are not yet aware of the total cost of the cleanup.

Workers have been hand-transferring each voter’s intention from spoiled ballots into fresh ones for days using purple markers. This tedious process could take more than two weeks. Nearly 35,000 spoiled ballots were still to be counted according to county records.

“This affects us all. Janet Bailey, a Republican voter, said that this is voter integrity. She protested at the Clackamas County elections offices on Thursday along with around a dozen other people. “We in Oregon had our primary a week ago, but we don’t yet know the results.”

Hall was aware of the issue with the ballots on May 3 but didn’t take any action until after the May 17 election, when it became apparent that the vote count had been significantly delayed. Oregon Secretary of State says Hall declined to offer assistance; at least one Democratic lawmaker in the state has requested a legislative inquiry into this ballot error.

The results of many contests, including the highly-watched Democratic Primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District remain undetermined. Some voters are leveraging the county’s problems as a way to protest Oregon’s pioneering vote-by-mail system. They also want to see an end to the use of electronic machines to count votes.

Cindy Hise, a Clackamas County voter, said that “our votes must count.” She wants the whole primary to be redone. This has been going for days. It’s not possible for it to be a true vote.

Hall declined to speak by phone or face-to-face with The Associated Press about this story, but she said that she would be willing to cooperate with any investigation. She denied that she had any comment to make on the calls for her resignation.

She addressed several 2020 contributions she made for Republican causes and stated in a short email that she “maintains impartiality”. The total donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and to WINRED, a Republican Party fundraising platform, were all $100.