Election security, from ballots to Portland streets

Your Local Election Headquarters

Election Day is November 3, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s no surprise law enforcement agencies in the Portland metro area are making plans for Election Day and the days after. In a year that has seen more than 100 consecutive nights of social justice protest amidst an ongoing pandemic that has completely transformed daily life here and around the country, the November 3 election is a focal point for many different people of all persuasions and ideological points of view.

Friday, the Portland Police Bureau announced they and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office are working with other agencies to make sure that — regardless of the outcome of any race in the election — the city and its citizens will be safe while still being free to express their voices.

Both agencies said they are increasing staffing in the days surrounding the election.

“We will have more resources available during election week, modifying schedules to have more officers on duty,” Assistant Chief Chris Davis told KOIN 6 News. “That helps.”

They want to prevent what happened in November 2016 when Donald Trump won the election. Dozens of Portland businesses were vandalized, rioters used rocks and baseball bats, fires were set and more than 100 people were arrested during several nights of violence.

“In 2016 I think we were reacting to it a lot over those first few days and we want to have plans in place already in order to have adequate resources to deal with anything that comes up,” Davis said.

Last week, a meeting set up by Mayor Wheeler including the PPB, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office , the Oregon State Police and representatives from Gov. Kate Brown’s office to work on a unified command plan for election night.

They won’t share many details. But they did say there is not any identified threat at this point.

In a joint release, PPB and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said their goal is “to have a safe election season…without having to make any arrests.”

But they also said that while they “support the exercise of the First Amendment rights to assemble and engage in free speech, engagement in criminal activity will not be tolerated.”

And they even noted examples of what won’t be tolerated: blocking streets, blocking traffic, blocking freeways or major roads, lighting fires, vandalism, property damage, assaults and unlawful possession or use of weapons.

“One of the issues in 2016 was people taking over the freeways, the bridges,” Davis said. “We want to make sure people realize they can’t do this like they did back then.”

Even though Wheeler is against it, the dozens of Portland police officers who remain federally deputized could make arrests that might lead to tougher federal charges against suspects.

“Safe elections are critical to a healthy democracy,” Sheriff Mike Reese said. “The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to ensuring community members can safely exercise their right to vote and peacefully gather to engage in free speech events.”

“We want our community to know we are prioritizing public safety by adding resources and collaboration during this important time,” PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement. “We ask for the public to help us by reporting criminal activity, staying informed, and engaging in lawful activities.”

In this area, the Multnomah County Elections is in charge of elections-related security, including ballot security and tabulation. There is also some concern about conflict outside the county election offices on Election Night.

Ballots were sent out to registered Oregonians earlier this week.

A Multnomah County elections workers sorts ballots, and a protester on the streets of Portland (KOIN, file)

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