Pamplin Media Group
SALEM — Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has revised a proposal to ease restrictions on qualifying measures for the Oregon ballot.
The updated proposal allows petitioners to gather signatures for an initiative before the measure’s ballot title is finalized. The change could enable more measures to make the ballot.
Existing rules suspend the signature-gathering process until legal battles have been settled and a title is finalized for the ballot.
“Legal challenges often create delays of two to three months, or even longer, which is unnecessarily burdensome for grassroots petitioners that do not have the resources to hire a signature gathering service,” said Alyssa Orlando, Richardson’s spokeswoman, in a statement Wednesday.
Under the proposal, petitioners may circulate the ballot title issued by the state attorney general’s office even if the title has been challenged in court.
The ballot title is a short description for ballot measures intended to be informative and unbiased. Both petitioners and opponents can appeal the description to the Oregon Supreme Court.
The changes proposed Wednesday, Dec. 13, were based on public comments Richardson has received since he made the original proposal in late August.
Richardson credited members of the League of Women Voters of Oregon for suggesting the revisions “to ensure voters have a clear idea of what they are signing.”
He has reopened the public comment period until Dec. 21 to accept feedback on the revisions.
The Republican secretary of state’s proposal has triggered opposition from some Democrats and from the former executive director of labor-backed advocacy group Our Oregon.
Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, an attorney, said Richardson may lack the legal authority to make the changes, which could spark a legal challenge.
Opponents argue that gathering signatures before finalizing ballot title would allow petitioners to circulate inaccurate or misleading information about the proposed measure to the public.
Rayfield said he could see a scenario in which petitioners gather signatures for various iterations of a ballot title, which could threaten the integrity of the initiative petition process.
“You need to make sure everybody has the same accurate nonbipartison information when they’re signing an initiative petition, and I don’t think this get to that ideal,” Rayfield said of the revisions.
He said he would prefer any changes to the restrictions on qualifying measures for the ballot to come from the Legislature.
Comments on the revised proposal can be emailed to the secretary of state’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org until 5 p.m. Dec. 21.