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Sampling will weigh recall signatures

RVTD petitions are the county's first to qualify for the statistical method

On Wednesday, Jackson County elections officials trucked tens of thousands of Rogue Valley Transportation District recall petitions up to Salem for statistical sampling.

This is the first time Jackson County is using statistical sampling to verify signatures in a recall.

This will be the very first time we will ever use it, said County Clerk Kathy Beckett. We now fall into the big-county category (under state law) because we have over 4,500 signatures.

Believe me, we would never get done with signature verification if we couldn't do this.

The United Community for Rogue Valley Transportation District spent the last three months collecting signatures in an effort to recall five RVTD board members. To put the recall on the ballot, the Jackson County elections center must verify 6,810 signatures calling for the recall of each board member.

Spurred by the board's decision not to renew the contract of the district's general manager, Sherrin Coleman, recall supporters seek to unseat board members Eva Avery, Susan McKenzie, Kay Harrison, Carol Bennett and Mary Wooding. Recall supporters estimate they gathered about 7,900 for each board member.

Former board member Stan Druben also was targeted in the recall but resigned his position effective Sept. 18. Board member Ed Chapman is the only board member who was not named in the recall.

Recall chief petitioner Julie Brown said she heard about the statistical sampling of signatures only Wednesday.

It's kind of scary in some ways because if they happen to pick the wrong samples, it could go pretty bad, she said. Most of the signatures we have I felt were inside the district, and we marked off the ones who weren't by hand. But where we may have a problem is people who said they were registered but weren't.

Brown, though, said she understands the county's need to sample the signatures on the petitions, rather than verify each one.

I don't think they ever thought we'd get that number, she said. They were totally shocked. And it's an overwhelming task to look at 7,900 signatures (for each recalled board member). I didn't see how they could do it without doing a sample.

Beckett said this is the first time the county has had a big enough recall to make statistical sampling possible. According to state law, election officials can use statistical sampling for local initiatives, referendums, or recalls that require the signatures of more than 4,500 electors.

The county is running the petitions through computers at the state elections office ' which have been used for this before ' to make absolutely sure the samples are done correctly.

Beckett said elections workers will put the petitions through the machines, which will then point out which signatures elections workers must verify. The machine also will point out a second possible statistical sampling, in case the first one doesn't garner enough valid signatures, Beckett said.

The petitions will come back to Jackson County on Friday, and elections workers here will begin checking the identified signatures. Beckett expects they will check at least 1,000 signatures on each of the five recalls. The county must complete its work by Thursday.

All I can do is sit with my fingers crossed, Brown said, and let my ulcer bleed a little more.

If the signatures are verified, a special election will be set for Nov. 19.

Reach reporter Dani Dodge at 776-4471, or e-mail