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Monday, April 13, 2020

Around the County

 By Peter Toll
 Stay-At-Home Voters Avoid Long Voting Lines
Clackamas County residents and other Oregonians are scratching their heads watching televised voters in Wisconsin standing in blocks-long lines to vote.  Milwaukee County could muster only five polling places to serve 600,000 registered voters.  
Oregonians look to our 20-year history of total vote-by-mail and have to wonder:  Why do people put up with such absurd situations around something as important as voting?  
How could this occur in Milwaukee?  The convoluted answer involves a Republican legislature, a Democratic governor and the chance to elect a GOP member to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bottom-line impact makes typical civics students just shake their heads in wonder.
Meanwhile, being a stay-at-home in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is giving the term a whole new positive meaning. But that’s another story.
Let’s look at some reports from around our county:
County Commissioner Ken Humberston is doing yeoman’s duty keeping everyone abreast of Clackamas County’s COVID-19 information. To date, the county has more than 100 people that have tested positive, and, we unfortunately already have seen three fatalities here. Ken has been vigilant in emailing official posts once or twice a day, with most posted on his Facebook page. 
County Chair Jim Bernard is coordinating frequent in-county virtual briefings and “Learning Sessions” via YouTube.  People actually do want to know what’s happening in the face of the pandemic, and we can thank Jim for adapting to the situation and keeping us informed.  Check the special section on the Clackamas County website for links to videos and coronavirus updates.
We can be grateful to our legislators, notably Sen. Jeff Merkley, for also providing timely contact information.  State Representatives Rachel Prusak, of West Linn, and Courtney Neron, of Wilsonville, are particularly adept and helpful with virus-related contacts and news.
Our Clackamas Democratic Chair, Peter Nordbye, of Brightwood, is conducting monthly Executive Committee meetings on Zoom as face-to-face, close-up and personal gatherings don’t apply right now.  
Speaking of Zoom, we’re all still getting used to it.  And crazy stuff can occur, as a young Lake Grove couple learned the hard way. The woman was involved in a Zoom business meeting when it was suddenly interrupted by her husband shrieking in the background:
“Hey!” he shouted at her angrily.  “You put a load in the toilet and didn’t turn the fan on!  Dammit!” He was within earshot but not within view in their small condo, unaware she was on Zoom. Quite entertaining for her business associates. We’re all learning.
Zoom, by the way, saw its activity soar from 10,000 hits a day to 10,000,000 (!) and has proven  useful for State Rep. Andrea Salinas, of Lake Oswego, and State Rep. Karin Power, of Milwaukie, to conduct virtual meetings with constituents.  
Helen N., in Happy Valley, says her Friday afternoon cocktailing group now does the ritual virtually on Zoom. And a handful of us were using it in meetings trying to set up a “debate” with the three Democratic candidates in the 5th Congressional District.  Rep. Kurt Schrader, of Canby, the incumbent, had to withdraw from the debate, citing unpredictable coronavirus-related duties. Challengers Mark Gamba and Blair Reynolds, both of Milwaukie, were disappointed. No debate.
As our Oregon primary is going ahead on May 19, your Clackamas County Democratic neighbors are using personal U.S. mail to deliver thousands of “slate cards” to other Democrats. Usually this information is hand-delivered but both the distribution and format had to be changed this year. The “slate card” is actually in letter form.
Important primary-related dates include April 28, the last day to register to vote in the primary, and April 29, when ballots will be mailed out. The legislature authorized postage prepaid on the envelopes for mailing in ballots.  That is especially useful this year as people don’t have to venture out to the post office for stamps.
Three Democratic candidates for Secretary of State are on that ballot seeking the opportunity to face a Republican in November. They are State Senators Shemia Fagan, of Happy Valley, Mark Hass, of Beaverton, and 2018 2nd District Congressional aspirant, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, of Redmond.  
Fagan is carrying labor’s banner as she was endorsed by the Oregon AFL-CIO. The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is also supporting Fagan, citing her 91 percent pro-environment voting history in her three sessions in the legislature.

Let’s all follow Gov. Kate Brown’s admonition: Stay inside, don’t endanger yourself or others, and, if you do get outdoors, avoid groups of people.  This COVID-19 is serious stuff.