By: Tracy Loew
The No on 92 Coalition attempted to place out-of-state election observers in at least four Oregon counties Tuesday, in violation of state law, proponents are complaining.
Measure 92, which would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled, failed by just 812 votes during the first, computerized tally last month. A hand recount began Tuesday in 19 counties and continues in the rest through Dec. 9.
Under Oregon law, each campaign may designate an observer to watch each counting table. Observers must be registered Oregon voters.
On Monday, state Elections Division Director Jim Williams warned each campaign of the requirements.
But out-of-state observers still registered and showed up in Marion, Multnomah, Linn and Benton Counties, said Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now, which is helping coordinate volunteers for the Yes on 92 Campaign.
Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said that, at the request of Salem lawyer Kevin Mannix, he allowed out-of-state observers to sit at the side of the room.
Official observers sat at the end of each table.
"When I looked into it with our legal counsel we found it was fine to allow them in the room," Burgess said.
In Benton County, Eugene lawyer Alan Thayer met with County Clerk James Morales to work out the process.
"We are allowing them to sit in the foyer area where we have a monitor set up that shows the recount room," Morales said. "We're not letting them into the actual counting room."
In Multnomah County, eight people from the California political consulting firm GOCO Consulting signed in Tuesday, four as observers and four as observer trainees.
Multnomah County Elections spokesman Eric Sample said they were not approved by the campaign, and were allowed to watch from an observation area but not at the tables.
On Wednesday, one out-of-state resident tried to be an official observer, Sample said.
In Marion County, one of the observers put forth by the No on 92 Coalition was a John Hewitt from Virginia, Burgett said.
GMO labeling-opponent Grocery Manufacturer's Association's director of state affairs also is named John Hewitt.
In Multnomah County, an observer for the Yes campaign complained that her counterpart for the No campaign was badgering election workers.
"After about 10 minutes of the opposite observer disrupting the attention of the counter and also instructing the counter how to do his job, I raised my hand and walked to our IAN supervisor of our team," wrote Yes campaign observer Nancy Newell. "Ian requested the floor supervisor near my table tell the opposite observer to stop his verbal barrage."
"If that occurs we deal with it," Sample said. "Both observer sides have been very well behaved."
Williams, the state elections director, was not available for an interview Wednesday.
The campaign was the most expensive in Oregon history. Food and chemical companies, led by Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer raised about $21 million to defeat the measure, while proponents raised about $9 million.
Originally Published: Statesman Journal