Hand-count of paper ballots likely after computer tallies report margin of fewer than 900 votes out of over 1.5 million cast...
By Brad Friedman on 11/24/2014, 2:48pm PT  

The November 4, 2014 elections are not over in several parts of the country. One of those places is Oregon, where progressive candidates and ballot measures were largely successful in bucking the rightward trend of election results produced by much of the rest of the nation. Nonetheless, a GMO-related ballot measure requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods appeared to have failed on Election Night in the wake of a record amount of campaign cash spent by food manufacturers to defeat it.

The measure, however, now appears headed toward a statewide "recount" as the official computer-reported results have greatly narrowed in the weeks following Election Day, with the race now regarded as "too close to call" by some. The "No" margin decreased to less than 1,500 votes as of late last week, after the Yes on 92 campaign was said to have been "reaching out to 13,000 voters whose ballots had signature problems and weren't counted," according to Oregon's KPTV.

[Note: The BRAD BLOG tends to use quotes around the word "recount", since most ballots in the U.S., even hand-marked paper ballots, are never actually counted by human beings in the first place, with most jurisdictions relying only on easily-manipulated and sometimes wildly inaccurate computer tabulators which tally ballots either correctly or incorrectly. Without an actual hand-count by human beings, its impossible to know either way.]

For the first time this year, the state publicly released the names of voters whose ballots had signature problems. That transparency allowed Measure 92's supporters to attempt to notify those voters to request they contact election officials to work out any discrepancies in order to have their ballots tallied.

As of Monday afternoon, numbers posted on the Oregon Sec. of State's results page show the margin having narrowed even further, with just 809 "No" votes outpacing "Yes" votes, out of more than 1.5 million ballots cast across the state. Finalized results are due from all counties by 5pm today...

As readers of The BRAD BLOG may recall, there was an attempted "recount" for Prop 37 in California, a similar ballot measure reported to have failed in 2012 after a similarly expensive smear campaign by many of the same food companies in that state.

That attempt at citizen oversight in California was stopped dead in its tracks by a single County Registrar in Fresno County --- a huge food production center in the state --- after she arbitrarily, and seemingly illegally, priced the attempted voter-requested "recount" far beyond affordability for the citizen coalition attempting to ensure the computer-reported results in the state were accurate. (See The BRAD BLOG's 2013 special report on that here.)

In Oregon, however, where the entire state votes by mail (or via mail-ballot drop-off sites), an automatic state-sponsored "recount" is triggered by statute when the computer-reported margin is less than one-fifth of one percent. With the current margin at less than one-tenth of one percent, the state's law, unlike in California, should allow a statewide "recount" of the measure to move forward without interference.

The battle over Measure 92 in Oregon is said to have been, "by far", the most expensive in state history. Spending to oppose the measure by corporations such as Monsanto and DuPont dwarfed that spent by supporters. The No campaign reportedly spent as much as $21 million to block the measure, while the Yes campaign spent $9 million in support.

The good news for voters in Oregon is that, in addition to state law mandating a "recount" in such races, those counts (unlike many "recounts" held elsewhere, such as in Arizona, where we hope to detail another "recount" story soon) are carried out by hand, as opposed to simply being run through the same computer tabulators that tallied them, either correctly or incorrectly (who knows?), in the first place.

The Oregonian reports, however, that a recent statewide recount failed to change final tallies all that much. "The last statewide recount was in 2008 on a measure regarding the government seizure of property found at crime scenes," the paper reports. "The initial count showed it passing by 550 votes. A recount concluded that it actually passed by 681 votes."

The statewide "recount" --- really, the first actual count of all the ballots by actual human beings --- will likely take place in the first week of December.

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UPDATE 12/8/2014: As statewide hand count is under way, proponents of Measure 92 seek the inclusion of 4,600 ballots they say have been illegally rejected. Details now here...

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