By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
In response to citizen concerns about potential voter intimidation, police will patrol Deschutes County ballot drop box locations in the days leading up to the election.
According to a statement from Bend Police, this is being done to ensure safe and free elections for everyone in the community.
Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship confirms receiving concerns from community members about people gathering at the ballot drop box in the Park & Ride lot at the intersection of Simpson and Bradbury on Bend’s west side.
Apparently, some people lingering near this drop box have demonstrated visually and verbally for a particular candidate or issue as voters came by to drop their ballots. And that prompted questions to the county clerk about potential voter intimidation and harassment.
“At the Bend Park & Ride, that’s a nice big open location with a parking lot,” Blankenship said. “The Bend Park & Recreation District has had youth meeting in that location for months. They had just continued to do that even after our boxes were open, so people contacted us with some concerns. That’s when we reached out to Bend Park & Recreation District, the City of Bend street department to help us with some signage and also the police department for some added patrols when they were in the area.”
Central Oregon Daily News asked Bend City Police what patrols of ballot drop box locations will look like and what people dropping their ballots should expect to encounter.
“We’ll be out and about and driving through the ballot drop box locations. If anybody sees anything suspicious, they can flag us down or call and make a report,” Lt. Juli McConkey, with the Bend Police Department, said.Â “There’s nothing in particular that we are looking for. It’s just to make sure that people are aware that we are around if needed. They can call us when necessary and we can follow up on any of their concerns.”
Blankenship said DCSO has for years provided a law enforcement presence on election night.
“Over the years we have always worked with the sheriff’s office. They help us close our drop boxes when elections are over. They’ve always monitored things for us as we’ve gone through elections,” Blankenship said. “This year I reached out to Redmond and Bend police departments because they cover Sisters and La Pine. Just a little added insurance, when they are down there, just kind of drive by and make sure everything is good.”
Blankenship says there was an incident this past Sunday when voters reported the Wall Street ballot box was overflowing. Blankenship, a second elections worker and two deputies responded, emptied the box and took the ballots to the clerk’s office for processing.
We spoke with election clerks in Crook and Jefferson counties and both say law enforcement agencies are keeping an eye on ballot drop boxes in those areas.
Wasco County Clerk Lisa Gamby said there was a prayer group gathered around the ballot drop box in The Dalles. She asked them to move back a short distance. They complied and continued praying for a safe and fair election.