Elections 2016: A Visit with Our County Clerk

With the current circus that is our current election season, the kids have had many questions about the elections process. There were only 7 and 9 years old during the last presidential election, so it is no wonder that they’ve taken a greater interest now.

A short time ago, an article in the Wall Street Journal showed a picture of people lined up at a polling station somewhere in America. “What are they doing?” my son asked. “Voting,” I casually responded. I further explained that in Oregon, we have a mail-in ballot system. We thereby don’t have to wait in line. We cast our vote by mailing our ballots to the county clerk. He didn’t inquire any further so I didn’t think anything of it until a few days later.

elections

Jeffrey recently joined Boy Scouts and one of the first merit badges he began to work on was Citizenship in the Community. One of the required tasks reads:

Choose an issue that is important to the citizens of your community. Find out which branch of local government is responsible for this issue and interview one person from this branch of government. Ask what is being done about this issue and how young people can help.

“People are interested in the elections. I’d like to know more about that,” he said. “Can I interview the county clerk?” 

Later that week, a homeschool friend posted a picture of kiddos visiting the county clerk’s office in Deschutes County. Serendipity! I picked up the phone and made arrangements for a visit to our own.

A Visit with Our County Clerk

In our county, the clerk’s job is twofold – elections and records. She is responsible for filing vital records or important documents related to the county’s population, including birth, death and marriage certificates. Services provided are:

  • Land Records
  • Public Records
  • Marriage Licenses
  • Dog Licenses
  • County Filings
  • Board of Property Tax Appeal

2016 electionsThe county clerk is also responsible for coordinating all voting processes in the county. Services provided are:

  • Voter Registration 
  • Candidate/Measure filing 
  • Election Management 
  • Ballot Processing 
  • Redistricting

During our visit the clerk led the kids through the entire process. They were given mock voter registration cards to see how our signatures are entered into the computer system. Thereafter, we were mailed mock ballots with which we voted for fictional positions and two mock county measures. The clerk and her assistant than walked us through the process by which our signatures are verified and our votes tallied.

I was very impressed with the thought and preparation our clerk showed for our visit. It is clear that she takes her job very seriously and enjoys her work. She has held this elected position since 1999 – no one has ran against her since her first term.

When asked what young people can do to help she responded, “Be informed. Learn now how to research the issues for this will be a skill you will always need. Be knowledgeable on the issues that will affect your communities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to always seek out information.”

We look forward to going back as her team processes the real ballots during the primaries in May.