New Oregon Secretary of State to Examine Warnings From Fired Elections Director

New Oregon Secretary of State to Examine Warnings From Fired Elections Director
An election worker sorts submitted ballots at the Multnomah County Elections Office in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 2, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Oregon’s elections director, Stephen Trout, was fired just weeks after penning a memo to secretary of state candidates warning of issues with the state’s election system.

Oregon Secretary of State-elect Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, says she spoke with Trout, who was fired last week, and planned to examine the issues he raised.

Trout “raised critical warnings that concern me as Oregon’s next secretary of state. I spoke with Mr. Trout personally this week and we plan to speak later this week and go through his memo together, line by line,” Fagan said in a statement.

“Oregonians put their trust in me to protect the nation’s most successful vote-by-mail system, and that is exactly what I intend to do,” she said.

Trout told news outlets that he was told in a text message on Nov. 5, two days after the election, that he was terminated.

“I would not abandon my staff or the counties before the election is over, especially since I was the only one at the SOS office with a security clearance that could be notified of any election attacks during this certification process,” Trout wrote in an email to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “There is no resignation letter because I didn’t resign. I was laid off via text message late Thursday.”

Trout didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican whom Democratic Gov. Kate Brown appointed to the position last year, told The Epoch Times via email that Trout’s last day was Friday.

“We appreciate all of the great work Steve gave the Agency as Elections Director. He gave us notice that he would be leaving the Agency and in order to ensure a smooth transition, his last day was Friday. We are lucky to have had such a knowledgeable advocate for the democratic process on our team, which contributes to Oregon’s positive reputation as a leader in administering safe and secure elections. This General Election was well run due in part to Steve’s leadership and we wish him well,” she wrote.

“Steve gave Secretary Clarno notice that his last day was to be December 15th on October 27th via email and a verbal conversation. He had planned to be on leave a majority of that time. The decision was made to ensure a smooth transition and end his appointment, Friday November 6th. Michelle Teed has been named Acting Elections Director, she has served as Deputy Director. This time will allow Michelle to ensure that the transition from this administration to the next will be as seamless as possible. Secretary Clarno has every confidence that Michelle can handle the work that needs to be done.”

Trout sent a memo the day before the election to Fagan and state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican whom Fagan ended up beating.

He informed them of issues he saw in the elections division, including an alleged “lack of strategic vision,” and problems with technology.

Rob Bovett, the lawyer and lobbyist for the Oregon Association of County Clerks, reportedly wrote a letter to Fagan on Nov. 9 highlighting Trout’s letter. He said clerks are “very concerned” about the state’s voter registration system.

“It’s the primary weak point of our current election system, and is in desperate need of replacement,” Bovett wrote, according to The Associated Press.

Several clerks criticized Clarno’s firing of Trout.

“We are still in the election process right now. We are reconciling, we’re dealing with problems right now as far as your signatures and communicating with voters who didn’t sign the ballots,” Linn County clerk Steve Druckenmiller told AP. “We’re going to have to do recounts, all of these things. She doesn’t understand elections.”