Protecting Our Elections: Interviews with Sherry Healy and Pamela White

As a service to Clackamas County voters, we present the below Q&A with Sherry Healy and Pamela White, both Democrats running to replace incumbent County Clerk Sherry Hall in the May 15th Primary Election.

Sherry Healy

Pamela White

Q: What inspired you to run for county clerk?

Sherry Healy: When I was 16, I was responsible for delivering the counted ballots to a community center, which happened to be a sewage treatment plant. It’s a long story, but the important part is that it was my firsthand experience carrying a ballot box that made me realize this democracy is literally in OUR hands. This awareness led to me take personal offense when I heard allegations our electoral systems were flawed. I did my own due diligence and found out that not only were these allegations true, but also it was far worse than I could have ever imagined. This led me to become an election integrity advocate for over 15 years now.

I am running for Clackamas County clerk because our county clerk’s office is where our ballots are collected and tabulated; it is our first line of defense for our election security. This is not to diminish the importance of ALL the other vital county clerk’s responsibilities. For those, I also offer a lifetime of work experience that perfectly matches the skill sets and knowledge required to be a great county clerk. Some of my accomplishments include co-authoring “The Titanium Standard,” part of which became our current Oregon law, and I have over 20 years’ experience running a successful small business and working as a paralegal.

My vision is to make our Clackamas County clerk’s office a model for best practices for election security, operations, transparency, and inclusivity.

Pamela White: I believe that our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people” and that we the people are the government. The clerk’s office is foundational to our democracy because the clerk is: the protector and facilitator of our elections; the keeper of public records who also keeps those records public and safe; and the recorder and witness of important life documents like marriage, domestic partnerships, and property sales.

Because the county clerk is the first defense for our democracy I decided about 15 years ago that if I ever had the opportunity to run for office, I would run for clerk. I bring 25 years increasingly responsible experience in the nonprofit sector, the last eight in executive management. My expertise in organizational management; budgeting; public relations/community outreach; and employee empowerment and retention will allow me create a culture of excellence and integrity in the clerk’s office.

Q: What would you do to better protect our voting system?

Healy: Our country is at its most precarious crossroads: We’re losing our middle class, we’re losing our environment, and we’re losing our democracy. With what is at stake, it is clear that our country can no longer afford generic county clerks who are overly reliant on their subordinates and vendors to run OUR election systems. I have a long list of things I plan to do, but the first is to address the voting tabulation systems.

Oregon should be proud of our all-important paper ballots, but once they go through the hackable computer tabulator, the results can be tampered with even though the equipment is disconnected from the internet. Computer security experts tell us this is true for many reasons, including the fact that our equipment has multiple opportunities for insertion of malware that can avoid detection throughout pretesting, activate during actual tabulation, and then disappear without a trace.

The good news is we have budget friendly solutions that I have been advocating for, such as a Risk Limited Audit (RLA) where a statistically significant sample is cross-checked with the machine tabulation results. Yet, please don’t be bamboozled by those who claim this is already done in private. Because, unless an RLA is strictly implemented according to protocol, which includes a science-backed statistical sample, extensive public witnesses, genuinely random method, public access to data, and election code enforcement, it is not the solution we need, but instead, falsely makes us believe we have secured our elections.

RLA recommendations I co-authored for Oregon in 2006 have been implemented in Colorado, which also happens to be a vote by mail state with the same tabulation vulnerabilities. Also, I recently asked Senator Ron Wyden’s office to add RLAs to his national paper ballot bill, which he now has.

What I will not be doing is wasting precious taxpayer dollars on inadequate and expensive security solutions. For example, while I agree in principle that all software should be open source, I also believe it should not be as expensive as it now is. The problem with open source software is that the computer tabulation still can be hacked, and so we would still need to do the RLAs.

White: I have been researching the Hart Verity Central system that is used in Clackamas County and believe it is among the safest available; please read the information on my website for more on how Clackamas County Elections work.

However, there are a couple of things I will do. The first is risk-limited audits, which require hand counts of random sample precincts that show a very narrow statistical percentage of error when compared to the machine tally. I believe this will help us verify elections integrity and will act as a way to confirm what I already know, that our staff is also acting with integrity.

Additionally, we will instill a very tight internal protocol for the programing of all ballots, scanners, and exchange of communications — again keeping both the public and the staff safe from vulnerabilities.

I will also continue to keep a close watch on the work of voting integrity watch groups, such as, to make sure that our office is practicing at the highest level of voter integrity excellence.

Q: Are you satisfied with the level of accountability and transparency with the current voting and public records keeping systems? If not, what might you do to improve transparency and accountability?

Healy: I have a list of promising ideas, but I will need to be in the office to truly understand their feasibility. For example, there is now an online portal to record real estate documents with the county clerk, and it would be great if the public had the same access to it that real estate title companies do. This is just one example, but the principle I hope to invoke is any public record that the county makes available to third-party entities should also be made available to individuals. Public documents should be public. Period.

White: No, I am not satisfied. I will have an outside audit done by a knowledgeable firm and will publicize the results. While waiting for those results, I will create two advisory boards: A Stakeholder team and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team composed of both staff and citizens.

These teams will:
1) Collect public input;
2) Take a close look at best practices in each industry;
3) Analyze the audit report;
4) Make recommendations;
5) Work with the clerk’s office to create benchmarks for accountability;
6) With clerk, release benchmarks to media and the public; and
7) Hold yearly review of benchmarks and report to public.

I will also use my expertise and experience as a communications director to develop a strong relationship with the community through strategic communications strategies, explained below, so that the public is encouraged to hold our office accountable.

Q: How would you ensure good communications from the county clerk’s office to Clackamas County citizens?

Healy: It is said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” In this case, we must inform our next generation how to heed this advice, so that we may ensure that our gift of a bona fide democracy will survive. Firsthand practical experience is a superb way for our youth to grasp that democracy is not a spectator sport. I will work with the Clackamas County high schools to provide opportunities for students to assist in the county clerk’s Election Division in all duties. Had I not been entrusted with the responsibility to physically deliver ballots as a young person, it is doubtful I would ever have been engaged in finding the solutions election systems now demand.

Also, I would like to have a quarterly newsletter sharing developments and answering FAQs, as well provide an open public forum for people to weigh in on important decisions facing our county — from elections procedures through to any possibly large expenditures. I would also reinstate the ink signing of ALL marriage certificates, because I am not okay with the current practice of just rubber stamping the signatures. The county clerk’s office must respect the law and exemplify openness and fairness, and my actions will show the public these values are once again honored and cherished.

White: Most citizens don’t know what the clerk does, so of course, they don’t realize they should be holding the clerk accountable. I think communication is key to getting citizens aware and involved.

I will do this in a couple of ways; the first is by broadcasting our “benchmarks for accountability” described above, and second, by educating and empowering citizens to participate in our democratic system.

To do this we will use a myriad of communication tools including:

  • Community coffees/forums;
  • Special events in the clerk’s office that highlight the work we do;
  • Opinion editorials (op-eds) in local papers;
  • A well maintained and relevant website, regular blog; and social media presence;
  • Special curriculum, available online, designed for teachers; and
  • Outreach to chambers, clubs, schools, CPOs, and other interested groups.