At the first meeting this month of the new Douglas County Transit District Board, Kat Stone was surprised to discover she was beginning a six-month term instead of a four-year term on the board.
The meeting began with the drawing of lots. Each of the board’s seven members drew a number out of a hat. Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt subsequently explained members with numbers one through three, including Stone, would be up for re-election in May 2019. The remaining four board members would be up for re-election after two-and-a-half years, in May 2021.
Nobody is serving a four-year term.
Stone thought this procedure was unfair to the voters because two of three members drawing the shortest terms had the highest vote totals in the November election—Jennifer Bragg, with 14,073 votes, and Stone herself, with 12,205 votes.
“It’s just bizarre that the two highest vote-getters and two of the three women on the board have to run again in six months,” Stone said.
Peculiar as it sounds, though, the drawing of lots is what Oregon law mandates. Hitt explained the lots guarantee that terms are staggered so all seven positions don’t come up for re-election at the same time. Hitt said the exact method for drawing lots isn’t specified in the law. Some boards draw numbers, some draw straws, and some even throw dice, she said.
Bragg shares Stone’s frustration that six months from now she’ll have to go back and ask for votes again. She said most voters thought they already gave her a four-year term.
“I feel like it’s a slap in the face to the voters in Douglas County to not have all the information up front,” she said.
Hitt said each of the transit board members will be able to run for re-election, and the winners of all the upcoming elections will serve four-year terms.
The reason some positions come up for re-election so soon, six months from now, is that the Douglas County Board of Commissioners formed the district in 2018, an even-numbered year. Had the district been formed in 2019, three positions would have lasted two years, until 2021, and four would have lasted four years, until 2023.
There’s another wrinkle to the process. The county has asked the state for a special administrative rule establishing separate, numbered positions for subsequent transit district elections. If it’s approved, each current board member would fill a numbered seat, such as “Position 1” or “Position 7,” based on the number drawn by lot. All the positions would remain at-large, rather than representing geographic districts, leaving challengers the choice of which incumbents to run against.
The third board member to draw a short term was Mark Hendershott. The longer terms were drawn by Mike Baker, Sheri Moothart, John Parker and John Campbell.