Oregon Elections Division Affirms PUD Election Laws

November 25, 2016 – The Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division has confirmed that Columbia River People’s Utility District (CRPUD) is applying the correct state laws in its decision to declare Nancy Ward not eligible to serve as the Director for CRPUD Subdivision 1 in the Scappoose area.

“We don’t make the laws, but we have to follow them,” said CRPUD Board President Jake Carter.

In a letter dated November 23, 2016, to State Senator Betsy Johnson, Oregon’s Interim Elections Director, Brenda Bayes, listed the sections of the Oregon Constitution and Oregon Revised Statutes that apply to CRPUD director elections.

“The Columbia River PUD stated that a director must be a resident of the district and reside in the subdivision from which she is nominated,” Bayes said. “These statements appear to be consistent with the constitutional and statutory requirements laid out above.”

Bayes also clarified that as a special district, CRPUD has authority to provide service to customers within its political boundary, and outside of it.

Although CRPUD provides electric service to the floating homes in the Columbia County portion of Multnomah Channel, those homes were not included in the 1999 annexation of the Scappoose Drainage Improvement Company into the PUD’s political boundary.

“Unfortunately, Ms. Ward and the CRPUD Board were unaware of the boundary issue until after the ballots were prepared,” said Board President Carter. “My hope now is that an annexation will take place soon to allow these customers to join the district once and for all. Annexing into CRPUD would allow these customers to participate in elections and to be eligible to serve on the board in the future.”

In Oregon, PUDs are managed by boards of directors who must be residents of the district. Directors must have lived within the district’s political boundary for the previous two years and must reside within the political subdivision they represent.

In mid-October, Columbia County elections officials realized that candidate Nancy Ward’s residence sits outside the CRPUD political boundary. The county determined it was too late to remove Ms. Ward’s name from the ballot, but notified her by letter that she may be deemed ineligible. Ms. Ward subsequently won 62 percent of the vote.

Under Oregon law, the CRPUD Board serves as the elections authority for CRPUD Director elections. The Board must certify the results of the election to the county, and notify the county clerk whether any candidate elected to district office is qualified to hold the office. In a November 15, 2016, report to the CRPUD Board of Directors, CRPUD General Counsel Phil Griffin advised the Board that Ms. Ward is not eligible to serve, and advised the Board to declare a vacancy in the position when they take action to certify the election results at their December 20, 2016, meeting.

See the letter from Oregon Interim Elections Director Brenda Bayes.