Multnomah County proclaims Monday, Nov. 7 as Election Hero Day
Watch the board meeting here.
In recognition of the immense importance and work of Multnomah County’s election workers and administrators, the Board of County Commissioners proclaimed Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 as Election Hero Day.
The proclamation comes as many election workers across the country report concerns about their personal safety, with as many as one in four election officials receiving threats of violence after the 2020 election, according to a survey released by the Elections and Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland and the Democracy Fund, a foundation that seeks to improve the democratic processes. That figure jumps to nearly two in three when looking at the experiences of election officials in large cities.
Speakers from Multnomah County’s Elections Division shared that Election Hero Day is an opportunity to acknowledge and honor the essential contributions that election workers make to our democracy and electoral process.
“Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I went to my local election office to volunteer to be a poll worker,” Elections Director Tim Scott told the Board. While the office did not need poll workers, staff did need an intern. Scott seized the opportunity, creating forms for recording results on Election Night and packing precinct supply bags with duct tape and other essential items.
“I immediately connected with this work that is essential to making sure that elections happen,” said Scott. “I feel very fortunate and honored to include myself in this group of dedicated people who ensure elections in Multnomah County are accessible, transparent and accurate.”
Scott was joined at the presentation by Scotty Sherington, a Voter Education and Outreach Specialist and Joe Rogers, an Elections Cancellation Clerk and Precinct Committee Person Coordinator, who highlighted the professionalism, commitment, integrity and painstaking attention to detail election workers demonstrate with every election.
While the sharp increase in intimidation, harassment and attacks in the wake of the 2020 election has “created undue stress and trauma for all election workers,” the division’s commitment to free and fair elections was steadfast well before.
In Multnomah County, the Elections Division conducts all local, city, county, state and federal elections for voters in Multnomah County, said Sherington.
“I’ve been in this division for six months and have had the absolute pleasure of watching these folks from the other side,” said Sherington. “As a voter in Multnomah County for the last 15 years, it’s been a pleasure to see my ballot go through. Now, I actually see what it takes for all of that work to actually happen.”
“Multnomah County Election Heroes have endured through the pandemic. They have conducted six elections so far, with next week being the seventh election during this pandemic,” Sherington said.
Multnomah County Election Heroes have maintained a staffing level of 150+ folks. The division has a small staff in between elections, but during election cycles that workforce ramps up with on-call temporary employees who return, year after year, to help conduct elections.
“Multnomah County Election Heroes have consistently delivered election results in a timely and accurate manner. And Multnomah County Election Heroes are keeping democracy going here in Multnomah County,’’ Sherington said.
As a Multnomah County employee who has spent 24 of his 28 years in the Elections Division, Joe Rogers is a familiar face at the Elections front desk, where he assists customers with various needs. But one of his primary roles is as a cancelation clerk who scours voter rolls and amends registrations for deceased voters, voters who have moved to other states or jurisdictions or who no longer wish to vote. He also manages all precinct committee persons filing and elections.
“I’ve seen quite a few changes, not only to the physical space but in the election processes as well,'' Rogers said. “When I first started, there were no elevators and there were still filing cabinets in the basement with old registration cards from the 1960s.”
“Little did I know that when I started work at Elections in August 1998 that polling places would soon be phased out. The office had 16 full-time employees with 350,000 registered voters in Multnomah County.”
Now, with 560,000 registered voters in Multnomah County, we have a full-time staff of 12, he said.
“Little did I know, over 28 years ago, that my early childhood fascination with current events, social studies, government and politics would lead me to do this work for the County,’’ said Rogers.
“I continue to desire to work at Elections to help the people of Multnomah County, but also to have a person of diversity, to be seen at the front office. I know this truly matters to people of color, as well as to marginalized communities in this County as well.”
“Elections matter, this is why I do what I do at Elections,” said Rogers.
Commissioners took turns thanking the speakers and the entire Elections staff.
“I am so happy to have this chance to really celebrate and honor the Election Heroes who help people be able to access democracy to be able to participate in democracy, in this upcoming election but really 365 days a year,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.
“I think we are so lucky here in Oregon to have such a strong, established and principled voting system — where we’ve had to Vote by Mail for decades and it has been so successful,” she continued. “And it is about always expanding opportunities to vote, expanding democracy. And the reason it works so well is because of election workers.”
Commissioner Lori Stegmann took time to remark on Rogers’ job, saying that it was both fascinating and important for voters to know about.
“A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a person dedicated to going through death reports, obituaries, and notifications from other states and countries and jurisdictions,” said Rogers. “I actually do cancel those people out to make sure they’re not still active on the voter roll.”
Having those reassurances that there is someone tasked with making sure our voter rolls are accurate is really important to voters, said Stegmann.
“It’s horrifying what is happening in so many other jurisdictions, where our democracy is under siege and feels threatened,’’ said Commissioner Sharon Meieran. “But here we have truly the pillar of integrity.”
“You’ve really stood out for all the work that you do,” Meieran continued, complimenting Elections Director Scott. “It’s a huge testament to you and everyone who volunteers and works at the division.”
“This is such an uplifting proclamation this morning,” said Commissioner Susheela Jayapal. “Joe, you said, ‘Elections matter.’ That is what this work is about.”
Even as we hear the horrifying stories about voter suppression from across the country, Jayapal said, “Elections officials of any party, even non-partisan, are standing up and saying elections matter and we can’t allow our elections to be corrupted. I think we’ve also seen courage from you all and from folks like you across the country who insist that we have to protect this essential piece of democracy.”
“I feel so strongly about Multnomah County Elections,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said in closing.
As both an elected official and the daughter of elected officials, Kafoury reflected on her years working with Multnomah County Elections, and especially the last eight years as the County Chair.
“The work that you have done is often unnoticed except during an election year when everyone wants everything to be perfect. But the work you do all year to ensure our elections run smoothly and fairly and accurately, it’s such an important piece of who we are as a County and the values that we hold so dear,” Kafoury remarked.
“We don’t often get to see all the important people who are making it work behind the scenes. So I am very grateful, Tim, that you brought your staff with you today so that we can acknowledge you personally and publicly for the great work you do every year, and especially as the work seems to get harder and more public, and when our very democracy is at stake.”