Secretary of State's office says profanity in recall ballots OK

HUNTINGTON — Though some residents expressed shock over a profanity laden complaint that showed up in a recall petition against the City of Huntington’s mayor and subsequent ballot title, no state election laws were broken in the phrasing of the reason for the recall, according to the Oregon Secretary of State.

According to an email from Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial, state statute only allows the Secretary to prohibit profanity in a voter pamphlet.

As such, the allegations of assault, harassment and the spreading of misinformation against Richard (Dick) Cummings were allowed to be printed on ballots and sent to voters.

“However, the rules for a Recall Ballot are quite different,” he wrote. “On the ballot, the petitioner is allowed to make a statement, and the respondent is likewise allowed to make a statement. There are no rules, and we have taken the position that constitutional free speech provisions prohibit us from censoring the statements provided.” 

In the Nov. 5 election, voters successfully recalled Cummings, who was elected mayor in the General Election in November of 2018, and began serving in January.

Cummings on the ballot said he has evidence to refute some of the accusations and volunteered to take a lie detector test.

As to whether Cummings could sue over the complaint, Vial said his office “cannot comment on someone’s legal right outside of our jurisdiction.”

In January of 2018, Cummings was among four city councilors who were up for recall.

He was not recalled, but later in November of 2018 he got voted in as mayor in a write-in campaign garnering 56 votes.

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