In a case that's receiving national attention, former Clackamas County election worker Deanna Swenson has been charged with ballot tampering. Ms. Swenson, a 55-year-old mother of two from Beavercreek, has served without incident as an election worker for at least 15 years.
Around October 30 or 31, Ms. Swenson allegedly filled in a handful of down-ballot races left blank to cast additional votes for Republican candidates. However, Ms. Swenson was in a poor state of health; a lifelong asthmatic, she was suffering from a severe sinus infection, head cold and bronchitis in the days leading up to the election, and had been taking prescription prednisone since October 28. Ms. Swanson had been so absent-minded at the time that she even forgot to sign her own ballot when she submitted it October 30 (a mailing from the Clackamas County Elections Office postmarked November 5 alerted her to the missing signature).
According to Ms. Swenson's limited recollection of the event that led to her charges, she had been sitting with two other election employees sorting ballots when one of her coworkers pulled a ballot from her hand and asked what she was doing. "It was as if my mind had slipped," Ms. Swenson told The Oregonian. "It was as if I was at home filling out my own ballot."
Ms. Swenson was immediately relieved of her elections job, and on November 28, was indicted on two counts each of unlawfully altering a cast ballot, unlawfully voting more than once and first-degree official misconduct. Tampering with ballots and voting more than once are Class C felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $125,000 fine; official misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine.
Knowing she needed a strong legal defense, Ms. Swenson contacted the Short Law Group. Attorney Jason Short was by her side at the December 4 arraignment to enter a plea of not guilty. Short said that Ms. Swenson may invoke a defense based on her mental state at the time of the incident.
One of the first actions taken by Ms. Swenson was issuing an apology to her family from the Short Law Group offices. "I apologize first to my husband," said an emotional Swenson. "I apologize to my family, to my friends, to my community and everybody else affected by this incident." Although Ms. Swenson is a registered Republican, she denied that the incident was any kind of right-wing activism; her husband and daughter are registered Democrats, her son is a registered Green Party member, and they all "live in harmony at home."
Ms. Swenson's next court appearance is scheduled for January 16.
To contact the Gilroy Napoli Short Law Group, call 503-747-7198.
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