Idea: Initiative Reform

Editor's Note: On February 6, we asked BlueOregon readers to suggest progressive ideas that the next Oregon Legislature should enact. Over the next several weeks, we'll post some of these ideas here - and ask you to discuss them. Good idea? Bad idea? Any suggestions?

From Betsy Wilson:

We ought to have to have more than 25 signatures to get the Attorney General and Secretary of State and Supreme Court to write a ballot title for a proposed initiative.

10,000 makes sense, 2500 is do-able. We always have 130-187 inititiatves filed each year, and only about 20 are circulated for signatures, and only about 10 make it to the ballot.

The others are wasting our time and resources and the whole thing is clogged up with attempts to let the spin of legal words win, rather than the underlying idea.


[If you have your own original progressive idea to propose, do it here: "There oughta be a law."]

  • Becky (unverified)

    The problem with requiring 10,000 signatures before being able to file an initiative is that it places an enormous cost burden on chief petitioners before they even receive a ballot title. People don't vote on the text of an initiative. They vote on the ballot title assigned to it. If a confusing or misleading ballot title is written for the measure, no matter how popular the initiative itself might be it will not pass. So a biased ballot title can immediately financially devastate a grassroots campaign that may have already invested $40,000 in collecting the 10,000 signatures.

    No doubt, some will argue that the AG's office is fair and unbiased, and that an appeals process exists for ballot titles. But it is naive to believe that the ballot title process is fair and unbiased - nothing in politics is, and to suggest that human beings won't behave as human beings normally behave in the ballot title process, as opposed to everything else, is unrealistic. It is also contrary to my own observations over several years.

    I understand people's frustration with "ballot title shopping" but it is a natural result of the politicization of the ballot title process combined with the political realities of how people vote. The reason people file several nearly identical versions of a ballot measure at the same time is because that way they can force the AG's office to include certain features of the measure in the ballot title, because the law requires ballot titles for similar measures to be distinguishable from each other. What I am saying is the problems that are distressing so many people in this process are a direct result of attempts by the AG's office to defeat initiatives before the chief petitioners ever begin circulating them.

    If you don't believe this happens, just picture what you might expect to occur if you had a very partisan Republican AG office. Do you believe they would write favorable or even clear ballot titles for initiatives to create a publicly financed campaign system or a progressive publicly funded health care plan? Of course not. So why are Democrats so unwilling to believe that conservative initiatives get even-handed treatment in the ballot title process today? No matter the political persuasion of the AG in charge of the process, I believe the motivation is to protect Oregon from a perceived negative law and to let the voters know what they "need to know" about the potential impacts of the measure, but what the voters "need to know" is subjective matter and based upon political viewpoints. While Democrats have tried to include in tax cut ballot titles important information such as that schools and other services will be cut, which drives anti-tax petitioners nuts, no doubt Republicans would try to include in ballot titles for health care initiatives that quality of care could decline for some, or that it would require tax increases. This is the sort of information that belongs in a campaign, not in an "unbiased" ballot title. Unless you believe your "team" will always be in charge, you should really be cautious of changes that will foster this sort of slanting of ballot titles.

    It is certainly reasonable to increase the number of signatures to file an initiative from 25 to 100 or maybe even 250, as that might reduce some of the filings without imposing a financially devastating burden on grassroots efforts. But if the signature requirement is to be increased to 10,000, then there must be simultaneously some give in the other direction to balance the impact. For example, tweaking of the language of the initiative that doesn't change what the measure does but makes it work better, solves a legal problem, or fixes grammatical errors should be allowed even after it has already begun circulating (perhaps after the initial 10,000 are gathered the measure could be subject to legal review and could be tweaked before continuing on with the drive, though this, too, could be a terribly politicized process). Or perhaps the ballot title could be written by a panel in the same way that official voter pamphlet statements are written - by an equal number of proponents and opponents, as well as a mutually-trusted neutral party.

    Above all, we need to find a way to make the ballot title process less political because that is the cause of the numerous initiatives that are filed and the costs invovled in preparing ballot titles for so many initiatives that never even begin circulation.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    How about we use our "fraud-free" vote-by-mail process to allow people to sign petitions?

    We could make a small hurdle to participating so that we aren't inundated with hundreds of ideas - say require chief petitioners to first submit 20k signatures or $40k for the opportunity to participate. At that price (assuming we had a dozen paying initiatives) the state could raise enough money to pay for any additional postage/printing/processing costs for vote-by-mail with enough extra to cover all the costs related to the ballot title process. Also, it would save the SoS office and county elections offices hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time to count, sample and verify signatures.

    No duplicate signatures. The initiative process becomes as fraud-free as vote by mail.

    The primary also gives voters an earlier opportunity to evaluate an initiative.

    The only reason to oppose this is if you are afraid of giving voters more options.

  • LT (unverified)

    Speaking as someone whose friend refused to return his ballot on Measure 30 (he'd been too busy with work and family to follow the news that it was a referendum on legislative action, not a legislative referral of the sort we'd been inundated with in recent years) who said "It is too complicated, don't we pay legislators to study complicated stuff like that?", I think voters would react to making them decide what measures are worthy the way they decided on the 2000 measures---the default position is NO.

    I don't think Wm.S. U'ren fathered the initiative system so it could be an industry--a way for some people to make a living. I think he had things like the adult adoptee measure in mind more than the folks who come back year after year and submit maybe 6 or more ballot titles to see which one tests best.

    I think 2500 signatures are more reasonable. I'd love to see some candidate sometime run on the issue of outlawing ballot title shopping.

  • (Show?)

    I like the idea of raising the number of signatures to get a ballot title. Title shopping is too cheap today.

    A couple of factoids relevant to this thread:

    1) We have 157 initiatives filed so far this cycle, last cycle capped out at 152 - it's a growth industry.

    2) The first initiative of 2008 has been filed by Bill Sizemore. It would prohibit election officials from using statistical sampling to validate signatures, they would have to look at every one. Another growth industry opportunity - at taxpayer expense. Maybe the First Things First committee would like to run with this one.

  • LT (unverified)

    But of course Bill Sizemore ( can he legally raise money and run ballot measures?) would oppose either raising taxes/fees to pay for counting every signature or tell which state spending he would cut to pay for that.


  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)

    Let me get this straight now...those above want to require somethig between 5,000 and 10,000 signatures before someone can submit a proposed initiative to the AG to get a ballot title....BUT bright blue progressives in Portland only require 1000 signatures for a city council candidate can receive NOT a ballot title but $150,000 of tax payers money? Yeah yeah, I know....those signatures have to be accompanied by $5...but a candidate investing $5,000 to yield $150,000 is a piece of cake.

    I would agree the present 25 signature requirement is too low...but anything higher than 1,000 signatures doesn't seem very "progressive".

  • (Show?)

    "a candidate investing $5,000 to yield $150,000 is a piece of cake."

    800,000 people in Portland and so far, and only one has qualified for the $150,000. Expect two more, but that's only three total. Let's say I'm off by a factor of 2... a whole SIX candidates for two seats. Ugh.

    The "piece of cake" theory has been debunked again and again and again. No one who has made that claim has yet managed to achieve it.

  • (Show?)

    Nit-pick: here aren't 800,000 people in Portland proper, Kari.

    There are about 540 to 550,000 city residents. About 400,000 registered voters (399,737 as of Jan 31) -- and I think people have to be registered voters to contribute the $5...

    In the greater Portland area, there are 2 million, depending on how far you're willing to call greater.

  • (Show?)

    Chief petitioners' ballot title shopping comes at great cost to the state (and I mean dollars), and the number of signatures required ought to be raised significantly (or geographically distributed) to prevent that. At least one initiative in the current cycle has been filed eleven times (minor variations) seeking a better ballot title, and each ballot title shopping trip costs the state more than a little money, so joe taxpayer gets to finance the chief petitioners' poll testing.

    And it's not like the AG himself writes these ballot titles with an eye toward pleasing partisans; they're written by career DoJ attorneys whose political affiliation remains a mystery and who take their duty to be fair and unbiased very seriously. Really. If ballot title writing was in my hands, I could come up with some super creative and effective ways of biasing the question, but the attorneys who actually write these things aren't at all interested in swaying the outcome, they're actually just interested in safely and conservatively doing their job.

    How about a legal review of an initiative before it goes on the ballot, so that we know if it's constitutional and it doesn't get overturned afterwards? How about giving the legislature the opportunity to sort out an issue before it goes to the voters (like they do in WA)?

    And related, how about requiring petition circulators to be trained?

    There are lots of ways to make the system work better and prevent some of the unintended consequences that happen when we let people who aren't lawmakers make laws. Raising the number of signatures required to get a ballot title is a good start, but it's just a start.

  • (Show?)

    Oh yeah, Portland City Club is currently researching ways to make the initiative process work better, I imagine they'll pop out a report in the not too distant future. Maybe some of the better notions in the report will even get implemented (dare to dream).

  • wj (unverified)

    This thread is absolutely chock-a-block with comments confirming my belief that the initiative process is fundamentally corrupt and that I will have nothing to do with it. Sorry, all the chatter here is about "reform" and fine-tuning a process that is hopelessly compromised by (as is everything else in US politics) by $$.

    --Make our legislators do what they're paid to do. --Boycott the initiative scheme.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    The initiative process was started to correct "out of control" legislatures. It was a way for people to pass laws or amendments to the Oregon Constitution that for whatever reason the legislature would not do.

    We are very far from that point now.

    I think for the good of government, it would be good to slow down this whole process, and take it back to the original intentions. It is supposed to be a safety valve for when government is not otherwise working.

    Frankly, if the people have a problem that needs solved with an initiative, then the numbers of signatures is not an issue at all. If an initiative is going to pass with 50% + 1 of the votes, then what is to fear from a higher number of signatures to get it on the ballot?

    As a person from a rural area, I fear the tyranny of the majority. I personally would like to see the requirements be a number of signatures from all the Counties, or something like 30 of the 36 Counties - in numbers high enough to stop all the crazy stuff. When I think of the anti-rural measures that have failed (stream fencing, various timber management stuff), such a system would keep them off the ballot in the first place - and save the State lots of money. It might not stop an OCA anti-gay/lesbian initiative, but then again it might.

    We have too many initiatives in Oregon, and too many that pass do us harm (Measure 5 for example).

  • LT (unverified)

    As I recall, there was either a ballot measure or a legislative referral or something back maybe in the 1990s (?) to require signatures be collected in each of the Congressional districts. I don't think it passed.

    But what is wrong with that? Wouldn't we have more serious ballot measures if they had to collect signatures outside the Portland Metro area? And don't tell me nothing would be on the ballot. Measure 9 campaign finance reform qualified for the ballot by getting signatures in all 36 counties. I seem to remember someone being really successful collecting signatures at some mall in Bend.

    Maybe then we'd see more true CITIZEN initiatives (like the adult adoptee measure where they got their measure passed and then went on with their lives) and less of the ballot title shopping initiative industry.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Anne writes, "the attorneys who actually write these things aren't at all interested in swaying the outcome, they're actually just interested in safely and conservatively doing their job."

    So you're saying that unlike every other human being in the world, these attorneys can do their job with total separation from their philosophical and political beliefs? My experience with them does not indicate that is the truth. I'm not saying they're bad people, just that we're kidding ourselves if we think the current ballot title process is unbiased. And until it can be made more unbiased, you WILL have ballot title shopping. There's just not enough campaign money out there to overcome a bad ballot title, no matter how good the measure is. So the question is, does Anne want to clamp down on the initiative process or do she want to really fix the problem? It sounds to me like she is not a fan of the process and would like to see the government gain more control over the people's initiative process.

    Anne also writes, "How about a legal review of an initiative before it goes on the ballot, so that we know if it's constitutional and it doesn't get overturned afterwards?" That wouldn't help AT ALL. For one thing, it would be even more expensive than assigning a ballot title - think of all the hours that privately hired attorneys spend analyzing the constitutionality of measures once they've passed and those who resent them take a second whack at them in court. For another thing, the AG's office already does a cursory review for constitutionality before issuing the ballot title. I know because I've seen him reject several on the grounds that they were unconstitutional. And where is the fairness in allowing a government attorney to decide whether a measure is constitutional, rather than an elected panel of judges (the Oregon Supreme Court) who are answerable to the people? When experienced attorneys can make a case either way on the same measure, how is it that we can feel comfortable trusting a government attorney to make an unbiased decision, when his or her paycheck and job security relies on making a government boss happy?

    Call me cynical or jaded or whatever you want, but I see too much room for discretion and manipulation in the current ballot title process. I will not support increasing those factors - the initiative process is a citizen process and is not there for the convenience of the government. You want to clean up the initiative process? Put pressure on the state to prosecute the lawbreakers - and not just the signature gatherers, but also the money launderers and tax cheats.

  • ASill (unverified)

    The main problem I've seen in the ballot title process from the AG's office is that lawyers are clueless as to what plays in Peoria. They think like lawyers, and believe that average voters will understand the trade-offs in such measures like Measure 37. In focus groups, people say things like "I don't understand that part" when it gets to phrases like "or forego enforcement" and skip over it. Briefly describing a proposed law in 15 words to the general public is extremely complicated.

    So, even granting that lawyers are biased people, they're usually not very skilled at killing initiatives they don't like. It wouldn't be hard to do that. And sometimes they overcompensate against their own political biases, trying to be "fair."

  • (Show?)

    Becky, I personally don't like the initiative process, I think it's a terrible way to make laws. But, as a Secretary of State employee, I see that the people demand access to the initiative process, so we really ought to make it work as well as possible.

    The DoJ attorneys that write ballot title really do make every effort to be unbiased. I've seen 'em do it. And, much like my ability to separate by personal feelings for initiatives from my job duties, it's not that hard.

    The constitutionality review currently performed by DoJ is for procedural constitutionality, not substantive constitutionality. So, we review initiatives to determine whether they meet procedural requirements - such as being of a singly subject for voters, and not amending more than one section of the constitution at one time. We do not review to see whether an initiative as implemented would violate, for example, equal protection or the free speech or other substantive constitutional protections. I think that it would be helpful to know in advance whether an initiative is substantivly unconstitutional.

    If you have any other questions about how the initiative process really works, feel free to call or email me.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Briefly describing a proposed law in 15 words to the general public is extremely complicated.

    And, almost by definition, less than accurate.

    The initiative process was started to correct "out of control" legislatures. It was a way for people to pass laws or amendments to the Oregon Constitution that for whatever reason the legislature would not do.

    We are very far from that point now.

    I don't think that is true. The current state of the legislature is precisely why the intiative process was created.

    I think the problem is not that it is too easy to get on the ballot, but that it is too difficult unless you are personally wealthy or have an established interest group with fundraising capacity. The result is that initiatives are mostly drafted by very narrow groups of people and then vetted with a small number of people and/or organizational leaders who can contribute resources. It is rare that a larger public group has any opportunity to discuss the measure before it appears on the ballot.

    Here are some ideas on how to improve on that:

    1) Establish a voluntary public vetting process. That could include legislative hearings, a judicial review and/or other elements that would provide the sponsors feedback prior to the intiative being circulated, or after a minimum number of signatures have been collected. You could allow the sponsors to adopt changes based on the results. The ballot would tell you whether public hearings had been held on a measure.

    2) Enclose a copy of any intiative with over X number of signatures with the May primary ballot. People could sign the ones they support and mail them back along with their ballot. The ones that got enough signatures would be on the ballot in November. This could either be an extension of the current process, a replacement for it or a separate alternative way to qualify an iniative.

    3) Require measures to get a majority of the ballots cast in both a primary and a general election. Undervotes would be the same as voting no. At the same time make it easier for people to put a ballot measure before the voters. The result would be that a measuer would have to stand out in order to even get to the general election.

    4) Change the ballot title to describe the topic, rather than the measure. Sort of like a legislatie relating clause: Measure 37 - Related to government regulation of the use of land, Measure 5 - Related to property tax decisions by local governments ... Make it impossible for a voter to vote for or against a measure based on the ballot title. The title only tells them what its about, they need to figure out what it does.

    Of course the bottom line is some people think the masses are *** and they shouldn't really be given the power to legislate. But I think if you really believe that giving people the opportunity to legislate is important then there are ways to make it work to produce much better results. At least we shouldn't have measures passing where not even the sponsors understand what it does.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Anne -

    Perhaps if you want to understand how the initiative process really works you ought to call me. I think there is an awful lot you don't really understand - or want to understand - about it from the citizens' point of view, such as what is really causing the problems you decry and how to ease those problems to improve the situation in your own office. Believe it or not, things look very different to those who are trying to weave their way through the rules and process and come out the other end with something that matches what they intended in the first place.

    If you really wanted to make the process workable for the Oregon citizens who are demanding ballot access, you would open your mind and start listening to them - those who are actually using the process - rather than trying to make even more rules that serve only to ease the workloads of SOS and AG employees who are tired of being inconvenienced and having their budgets drained by dealing with all this work being generated by those pesky citizens daring to exercise their rights.

    And I am completely baffled how you justify spending money to do a "substantive" constitutional analysis of every inintiative on the one hand while complaining about the cost of writing a ballot title on the other (incidentally, I'm fully aware of the type of constitutional review done in advance of assigning a ballot title). Neither do I understand why you think that the "substantive" constitutional analysis performed by the AG's office would match that of the Oregon Supreme Court (the AG himself has issued rulings in the past that were different from the decisions of the Court) - unless you propose that the Court itself perform a constitutional analysis on every initiative that is filed. I guess it at least would come out of someone else's budget besides the SOS's. God forbid we actually try some of the less expensive options that would address the real problems in the ballot title process that result in ballot title shopping. Of course, that would require looking at the matter from the citizens' point of view.

    Incidentally, I think Ross's ideas (1, 2, and 4) may have some merit and should be explored further.

  • LT (unverified)

    Becky, With all due respect, there is a difference between people who have one issue, get it on the ballot, then go on with their lives on the one hand, and those who make a living at ballot measures on the other.

    If you really wanted to make the process workable for the Oregon citizens who are demanding ballot access, you would open your mind and start listening to them.

    How about listening to the citizens who are tired of ballot overload?

    I've been living in Oregon for more than 30 years. I admire the folks behind the Adult Adoptee measure--and think they were what Wm. S. U'ren had in mind when he started the initiative system.

    I was working part time as a product demonstrator in a big box retailer when that court decision came down some years ago described in the vernacular as "allowing private property owners to shoo petitioners away from the front of their stores".

    With all the talk today about "property rights", that decision was a property rights decision. Managers were hearing from customers that they were tired of being bombarded with requests to sign petitions when they were in a hurry and only came in to buy one or two specific things. Employees were tired of hearing complaints from customers, or of having to walk through the petitioners every day to go in the front door if they started work after the store opened.

    There was an attempt some years ago to define "citizens" as "those having ballot measure campaigns going" by the folks sometimes derisively called "initiativemeisters". That a certain prolific ballot measure sponsor picked up nicknames like "Buffalo Bill Seizemore"--nickname beloved by people who worked in non-unionized private sector jobs but had gotten tired of the guy--- shows not all "citizens" admire the institutionalized ballot measure process. As do cracks like "OK, let's see them do my job--answering all questions completely and courteously as required by management--and see how long they last if they aren't allowed to bully people they disagree with and make wisecracks about their opponents. I doubt they'd last a day doing this job".

    Whether those in the ballot measure industry realize it or not, such people in customer-contact jobs are citizens too, even if some customers seem to treat them as not deserving civility.

    In the mid-1990s, some friends and I got together to study ballot measures--until there came years when there were just too many to study. Which led to 2000. Think of how many measures won that year and how many lost. Is it just possible that "citizens" decided to rebel? By that I mean people so occupied with work and family that studying all those ballot measures seemed like a huge imposition on their time. I know some professionals whose livelihoods are in politics are convinced (without asking the individuals) that every person reads every ballot title every year.

    I knew people in 2000 who had NO as the default position--not just voting no but not even reading about any ballot measure unless they personally knew someone supporting a measure and wanted to know more about it, had gotten into a debate over a measure and wanted to read more, had seen someone on a street or in front of a store collecting signatures, or otherwise wanted some information. Saved a lot of reading time that way. Professionals can scream all they want "that is not what people do", but just as some don't have sympathy that Gard and Gerber is angry they didn't get enough valid signatures, no one is required to sign a petition just because someone with resources wants the issue on the ballot.

    Add in clueless/dishonest petition circulators, and you get a general public which passes a measure to outlaw paying by the signature, and there are lots of ordinary citizens who would probably cheer any effort to rein in the ballot measure industry even further.

    This may come as a shock to people with an activist background, Becky, but most people's world does not revolve around ballot measures. Next time you are in a grocery store line, think of how many other people in line could tell you what Measures 28 and 30 were about, what happened after the elections, and if they could tell you which of those was a legislative referral and which was a referendum put on the ballot by petitioners who were not grass roots Oregonians. Why should Dick Armey have come to Oregon during the campaign to put that on the ballot? Would it have qualified if only Oregonians had been involved?

    More importantly, how many people realized that Armey was here?

    Most people are so busy thinking about work, whether they can afford their groceries and pay all their bills, what is going on with family (from kids, school, sports etc. to whether a relative is moving or has health problems or whatever ) and friends (did a friend just get a good job? or lose a loved one?) that they don't follow this stuff closely.

    My guess is that there is a backlash building against the people who put the same ideas out for signature over and over and over. My guess is that there might even be support for the concept that if an idea fails to qualify for the ballot twice in (5 years, 10 years, whatever) that it cannot be put out for signatures again for a specified amount of time. Not to mention those who support the idea of ending ballot title shopping and requiring 2500 signatures rather than just 25.

    The woman from the Adult Adoptee measure spoke at a forum once and had what I thought was a great idea. Money raised for signature gathering goes into an entity which dies when the measure qualifies. A different legal entity (as different as, say, Saxton For Gov. 2002 and Saxton for Gov. 2006) would raise and spend money for the actual ballot measure election. That was a very interesting forum (Willamette University, 2001 as I recall). All the posters advertised the famous people on the panel, esp. columnist David Broder and former legislator and Sec. of State Phil Keisling. But the star of the show was the woman from the Adult Adoptee measure.

    People who admire that woman and that no-nonsense campaign ("we didn't need to have a big office when the Kinko's down the street had all the up to date office equipment we needed, and we only had to pay for what we actually used, not the equipment upkeep") have every bit as much right to be heard as the people who have circulated petitions for measures year after year after year after year after year. It shouldn't take an organization with an office and an executive director on the payroll for citizens to have a voice on ballot measure issues and how they like being inundated with so many measures so often. They talk to their friends about their views on these issues. And when measures fail (did any of the Sizemore measures in 2000 pass?) it is likely that such conversations had an effect on the election results.

  • Becky (unverified)

    LT -

    I can't argue with almost anything you say. I agree, there is a big difference between those who make their living doing petitions and those who are citizen activists who take on one issue that is their burning passion. Just remember that any time you put restrictions on the process, you make it harder for the adult adoptee types, too. Worse, the career initiative people can still raise the money to do what they want despite the restrictions. Abuse of the system by a few, as well as teh never-ending media coverage of scandals, attacks on unionized workers, and "the sky is falling" protests by local goverments have pushed the public to a point where they're tired of all the initiatives. I'm tired of them, too. But a few gems make it through and they're what make the system worthwhile. Despite all the problems of the past ten years, I really believe we need to keep the system workable.

  • (Show?)

    People don't vote on the text of an initiative. They vote on the ballot title assigned to it.

    Here's an idea: Let's just get rid of ballot titles completely. We don't need them. Just assign measure numbers, then go right into the measure's text without any official title. Maybe that would make people stop, read, and think before voting.

  • LT (unverified)

    Becky, Just remember that any time you put restrictions on the process, you make it harder for the adult adoptee types, too. Worse, the career initiative people can still raise the money to do what they want despite the restrictions

    Raise money to spend on what--annoying people with TV ads? Even if petitioners for putting one of Sizemore's failed measures on the ballot yet again paid $20 an hour to put petition circulators on every street corner in Portland, Bend, Salem, Eugene, and Medford (which is what you imply by "still can raise the money"), if people ask questions and then walk away or say "Sorry, I no longer sign petitions because there are too many ballot measures", how is "raising enough money" going to get things on the ballot?

    Did it never occur to you that grassroots efforts like adult adoptees might have enough networks (adoptee rights groups, friends, maybe groups like Rotary or something) that they don't have to stand out in front of stores and annoy people?

    Think about the Measure 9 campaign finance reform. They collected signatures in all 36 counties. Which proves something can get on the ballot by doing more than just annoying people in Oregon's major metropolitan areas. Are you opposed to (wasn't it a ballot measure or proposed legislation once?) requiring signatures be collected in all 5 Congressional districts to make them truly "statewide" measures?

    I know the boast has always been " Worse, the career initiative people can still raise the money to do what they want despite the restrictions".

    I also remember a time when the boast was that Sizemore and McIntire were more powerful than elected officials by claiming to speak for "the taxpayers"---as if anyone filling out a tax return was one of their supporters. Not in this century!

    Becky, I take it you are not supporting Ben Westlund for Governor. I have known Jim Hill more than a quarter of a century. I became a Ben Westlund fan on a hot Friday afternoon on the way home from work (think it was maybe during the 5th special session) when Ben was being interviewed as chair of Ways and Means or Budget or whatever they were calling it. He was asked "Why is it so tough to balance the budget" and he said "Gov. Roberts was right about Measure 5, on everything but the timing".

    MY GOSH! A man who makes sense! I wrote him a thank you note for saying "thank you for saying something so common sense in that radio interview!".

    That is why I am thrilled Ben is running, and why I am not impressed by anyone who says "......and "the sky is falling" protests by local goverments have pushed the public to a point where they're tired of all the initiatives".

    If there are tiles falling from the ceiling of a local school building because the district has put off maintenance for so long (news story from a small town some months ago) do you really think the parents in that community believe the school has plenty of money and anyone who says otherwise should be ridiculed with cracks like "the sky is falling"? Don't forget, the people who say "schools have plenty of money" never state the affirmative and say "..and having looked at their budgets, I would cut....". That would take doing their homework, and they strike me as an intellectually lazy group which would prefer a combination of propaganda and bullying.

  • Becky (unverified)

    LT -

    Big-moneyed interests can raise money to pay campaign coordinators to oversee petition drives, to afford the risk of collecting 10,000 signatures prior to filing the initiative in the hopes the ballot title will be understandable and fair, to hire attorneys to appeal ballot titles to the Supreme Court, to hire petitioners to gather signatures, to buy mailing lists, and to mail petitions to people, among other things. These costs can easily exceed the fundraising abilities of many true grassroots campaigns.

    Regarding the ability of big-moneyed interests to get enough signatures, the trend you're talking about is a good one. If these people don't have a network for gathering signatures and the public refuses to sign their petitions, then you're probably right that their initiatives won't make the ballot. So why tighten up the restrictions on all initiatives if the public is tightening things up all by themselves? Believe it or not, societal pressure can balance things out just fine without the government stepping in all the time to fix things.

    Incidentally, I'm actually very interested in Ben Westlund's campaign and want to know more about him. I haven't made up my mind who I'm going to support, but as a registered Independent I'm looking at all the candidates.

  • LT (unverified)

    Very interesting comment, Becky. But with regard to one thing I mentioned (and feel strongly about) :

    "Think about the Measure 9 campaign finance reform. They collected signatures in all 36 counties. Which proves something can get on the ballot by doing more than just annoying people in Oregon's major metropolitan areas. Are you opposed to (wasn't it a ballot measure or proposed legislation once?) requiring signatures be collected in all 5 Congressional districts to make them truly "statewide" measures?"

    you responded with a question: So why tighten up the restrictions on all initiatives if the public is tightening things up all by themselves?

    To which I respond with "Why shouldn't signatures have to be collected outside the urban comfort zone of the ballot measure industry?".

    One time either a Sizemore or a McIntire petitioner (some people have extremely low regard for both and don't always think of them separately) set up in front of Salem Costco. That was before the court decision saying private store owners could shoo such people away. What I saw outside the store was someone not having a lot of success--as in "go away and don't bother me", and inside the store people making cracks like "they must be desperate to send someone here".

    Under your statement, why should the court have given store owners the right to shoo away such people if the circulators were unpopular and would learn never to go there again?

    How about because the desire of the ordinary public to enter a store without being pestered should outweigh either the desires of the initiative industry or some ideology about the freedom of circulators to annoy us until they realized there was no market for their measures?

    The process of "the public is tightening things up all by themselves" makes a lot of people very angry--why is it their job to regulate these people "who should go out in the real world and get a real job like the rest of us"? Are you saying that you don't remember if a measure/legislation requiring signatures collected in all 5 Congressional districts was ever either legislation or a measure (was hoping you might have institutional memory of that)? Or that you would not support such a bill or measure if it were proposed by someone tapping into the public anger about initiativemeisters who act like they are superior to the rest of us?

  • Becky (unverified)

    LT -

    Yes, I do remember the effort to require signatures be collected from all 5 districts, though I don't recall whether it was an initiative or a legislative proposal - seems it was a legislative proposal, though.

    At the time I didn't support it because it would have increased the costs to put a measure on the ballot. Fact is, there are greater concentrations of people in Lane and Multnomah counties, so even though conservative measures are statistically less popular there, the number of people who will sign them is much larger. I honestly don't know how I feel about the idea now. It seems to me, however, that if one was to support requiring initiative signatures to be gathered equally from across the state, then perhaps Supreme Court judges should also represent districts from across the state and not be allowed to come primarily from the Portland attorney pool, where they are more likely to be aligned with urban interests. It's really the same logic, in my opinion.

    Regarding your question about "why should the court have given store owners the right to shoo away such people if the circulators were unpopular and would learn never to go there again" we probably have the same opinion, but probably for different reasons. I support the Court's decision to shoo away petitioners because it violates private property rights to force the property owner to allow petitioners on the premises where they will harrass customers. No doubt you come at the issue from a public nuisance position. When it comes to petitioning on public property, or in areas that have been allowed to function as public gathering places (as the Court has defined them), the free speech rights of the petitioners outweigh the public nuisance argument in my opinion. I belive the Court holds that view as well.

    <h2>You ask, "Why is it their job to regulate these people ..." - because we're all responsible for our society - and "... who should go out in the real world and get a real job like the rest of us?" - I think they have real jobs. If I support an initiative and would like to see it get on the ballot, but I work full time and have children to care for and don't have the time to go out and collect signatures, why can't I pay someone to go out and do it on my behalf? That's exactly what is going on with paid petitioners. Some of them really are professionals who get every bit as annoyed by the obnoxious, druggy, disgusting petitioners as you do because they give them all a bad name. There are a lot of real jobs out there that some people find unsavory or annoying, but that doesn't make them unimportant or un"real."</h2>
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