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Election equipment fails, delaying ballot counting

An equipment failure at the Jackson County Elections Center earlier this week appeared to show lower-than-expected voter turnout numbers for a couple of days.

“It did alarm a lot of people,” said Chuck Heauser, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee.

A problem with a power source in a computer held up the tabulation. The Oregon Secretary of State's website showed 23 percent of voters had turned in their ballots as of Wednesday. But after the problem was resolved, the Elections Center on Friday was able to tabulate all the ballots returned so far and reported a 33.35 percent turnout among 121,515 eligible voters.

“It does look good,” said Heauser, who said many volunteers for the Republican Party have been manning phones and calling voters who have not submitted their ballots.

The turnout trails the 2012 presidential election year, when almost 39 percent of ballots had been turned in by this time, but it is still a good turnout for a non-presidential year.

“We’re having a healthy turnout,” Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said Friday. “We’ll probably hit close to 40 percent by tonight.”

She said she predicts the turnout to top 70 percent by the 8 p.m. deadline Tuesday.

Walker said a power source for a computer system failed and took some time to repair. She said another problem with a power cord also held things up. She said that by Friday, the Elections Center had caught up on its work.

Jackson County’s turnout is just ahead of the statewide average of 31.7 percent, according to numbers released by the Secretary of State's Office on Thursday.

In Jackson County, data from the Secretary of State shows 38 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Republicans have turned in their ballots.

For those not registered with any party, 23 percent have turned in their ballots. Independents' turnout is at 31 percent.

While Jackson County’s turnout is comparatively high, other counties, including heavily populated Multnomah, have been trailing.

Multnomah, which has the largest voting bloc in the state, had a 26.5 percent turnout on Thursday, the lowest turnout of any of Oregon’s 36 counties, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Heavily populated Washington County had the second lowest, at 27 percent.

The biggest turnout in the state is sparsely populated Gilliam County, at 48.1 percent, followed by Lake County, at 45.7 percent.

Voters who haven’t sent in their ballots have been receiving calls from campaigns and others encouraging them to vote.

“By voting early, you don’t get those calls,” Walker said.

Today is the last day to mail in ballots to ensure they reach the Elections Center on time. Ballot drop-boxes are available at the Elections Center, 1101 W. Main St., and the Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point and Rogue River libraries.