Betsy Johnson’s Campaign Is Investigating Oregon Secretary Of State Signature Sheets Submitted

The 74 signature sheets that Betsy Johnson, an independent candidate for governor, filed in August to be included on the ballot are the subject of an investigation by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.

Through a public documents request, WW discovered that the SOS is denying the lawyer who had requested the signature sheets, citing a legal exception to the public records law that permits the withholding of “investigatory information produced for criminal law purposes.”

The investigation is in its beginning stages, according to Ben Morris, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, the state’s top elections official. The investigation is being carried out by employees of the Elections Division.

Morris asserts, “We are not looking into Betsy Johnson or her campaign. “We are looking into people who were employed by the company that gathered signatures for her nomination petition.”

According to Jennifer Sitton, a spokeswoman for the Johnson campaign, only the company Initiative & Referendum Campaign Management Services is involved in the case.

We have no information regarding the probe, which is consistent with the fact that the secretary of state is not looking into our campaign, claims Sitton.

Ted Blaszak, the founder, and CEO of IRCMS, did not immediately respond to a request for comment after Johnson’s campaign paid his company $897,000 for the collection of signatures.

Johnson, a former longtime Democratic state senator from Scappoose, submitted 48,214 signatures on August 16. This was more than the 23,744 required to qualify as an independent candidate. (Elections officials found that a 78% validity rate, or 37,679 signatures, were valid. That surpasses the majority of signature-gathering initiatives.)

After Johnson turned in the signatures, Salem attorney Steve Elzinga requested copies of the signature sheets Johnson’s campaign submitted through Fagan’s office on August 31.

Betsy Johnson's Campaign Is Investigating
Betsy Johnson’s Campaign Is Investigating

According to emails, WW got through its own public records request, Lydia Plukchi, a representative of the Elections Division, informed Elzinga on September 29 that he could not have all of the materials he wanted.

Please be aware that 74 sheets are being held back from public disclosure due to a current inquiry, Plukchi wrote. According to section 192.345(3) of the Oregon Revised Statutes, “investigative information compiled for criminal law reasons may be withheld.”

Morris claims that his organization is looking into how the signature collection process works.

According to Morris, “The investigation we are undertaking will not affect whether Betsy Johnson qualifies for the ballot.” She could have done it with more than enough legal signatures.

Elzinga, a Republican and former legal advisor to the late Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, practices electoral law actively. He has filed an appeal with the Oregon Department of Justice, which upholds the public records legislation at state offices, challenging the secretary of state’s denial of his request for the disputed signature sheets.

While refusing to reveal his client’s identity, Elzinga stated that “all Oregonians share an interest in full transparency of the elections process, especially during such a close race.”

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