SALEM - Voting was deadlocked on a measure to have judges for the state's top two courts elected by geographic districts instead of statewide as ballots were still being tallied early today.

With two-thirds of the ballots counted, voting on Measure 22 was tied at 50 percent for and 50 percent against.

Voters rejected a second measure that also would have changed the way judges are chosen. Measure 21 - which would have allowed voters to choose "none of the above" on all judicial ballots - was defeated by 57 to 43 percent.

Measure 22 would carve the state into seven Supreme Court districts, one for each court member, and into five Court of Appeals districts that would each elect two judges.

The proposal was backed by 22 of the state's 36 district attorneys as well as by some retired judges.

Supporters said the change would decrease the lopsided domination of the state's top two courts by judges from Portland and the Willamette Valley by ensuring some districts would be drawn in rural areas.

Critics said the measure would politicize appellate court seats and that judges are not supposed to "represent" local areas as state lawmakers do, but are to apply the law evenly.

The sponsor of the "none of the above" measure, longtime Gresham initiative activist Don McIntire, said it was a way to give dissatisfied voters a voice in a system in which judges most often run unopposed.

Foes said Measure 21 could have resulted in court seats being vacant for months because when "none of the above" drew the most votes, elections would be held at the next May or November ballot dates until the office was filled.

Opponents also claimed the measure apparently would eliminate the governor's power to appoint judges when there are midterm vacancies in court seats. McIntire contended that no provision eliminated the governor's appointment authority.

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