Deadline passes for Oregon ballot measures

7/3/2014 5:45 PM
By Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The deadline for advocates to get their issues before Oregon voters this November came and went Thursday with no new additions to a lineup of ballot questions that will likely include the topics of illegal immigration, marijuana legalization and genetically modified food.

Initiatives need just over 87,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot and measures changing the Oregon Constitution require 116,284 names. The only campaigns to hit those thresholds by Thursday's deadline used paid signature gatherers.

Elections officials have until Aug. 2 to verify names and decide which initiatives have enough valid signatures to make the November ballot. So far, only one initiative has been officially certified — a proposed equal-rights amendment that would change the state constitution to prohibit state and local governments from discriminating on the basis of gender.

The measure was proposed by Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland. She and her husband, lawyer and lobbyist John DiLorenzo, contributed most of the $472,000 spent on the signature-gathering effort

Another certainty is a referendum on driver cards for Oregonians who can't prove they're legally in the U.S. The Legislature approved the quasi-licenses last year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to suspend the program and put the issue before voters. Referendums, which allow voters to weigh in on bills adopted by the Legislature, only require 58,142 signatures — far fewer than are required of initiatives, which allow citizens to bypass the Legislature and go directly to the ballot with proposed laws.

Advocates submitted more than 140,000 signatures for each of three other proposals. If the measures are certified, voters would be asked to legalize recreational marijuana, require the labeling of genetically modified foods and replace Republican and Democratic party primaries with a single primary election open to all voters.

Oregonians have previously rejected marijuana and open primaries.

Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association, a lobbying group that supports open primaries, said the difference this time around might be the ballot title — often the first thing a voter reads about an issue. Deckert said the language is much less bureaucratic than what was presented to voters six years ago.

"This has been very effective in California and Washington in allowing the fastest-growing political party in America (non-affiliated voters) to actually participate in elections," he said of open primaries.

Most proposed ballot measures did not get enough signatures to merit submission. Some started as high-profile campaigns — like an effort by grocers to end Oregon's state liquor monopoly — while others were more whimsical, such as a proposal to designate March 22 as "Tom McCall Day."

Fans of the former governor discovered how difficult it can be to get 87,000 signatures without employing help.

"We didn't come very close at all," said Elizabeth Miles, a sponsor. "We weren't sure whether we should stop it, or we should just let it go away."

Another sponsor, Matt Love, said they discovered that many people now living in Oregon had never heard of McCall and were unaware of major accomplishments such as the Beach Bill and the country's first bottle-deposit law.

"We were a little taken aback by that," he said.

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Follow Steven DuBois at http://www.twitter.com/pdxdub


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8/29/2014 | Last Updated: 3:00 PM