League of Women Voters On Power Grab Signature Verification

Debbie Aiona of LWV has posted the following statement on the effort to repeal Portland's new innovative campaign finance system:


As action chair of the League of Women Voters of Portland, I was a volunteer observer reviewing the signature verification process over at Multnomah County Elections concerning the petition to repeal Voter-Owned Elections.

They've got a thorough system to provide strict scrutiny of signatures. I have a lot of confidence in their findings.

One factor in the repeal evidently falling short of qualifying is duplicate signatures. This is typical of most signature gathering efforts. It especially shouldn't be surprising on this petition since they had essentially no volunteers collecting signatures.

Read the rest of the statement here.

Comments

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "It especially shouldn't be surprising on this petition since they had essentially no volunteers collecting signatures."

    Apply that reasoning to anything done by Tim Hibbits when conducting polls.

    Shall we declare all polls to be political advocacy by the entity that pays for the poll? I think that would be too sweeping.

    Given the ease of verification of the existence of duplicates, and correction thereof, I believe that the threat of criminal punishment is too great a burden on speech resulting from participation in any effort that involves obtaining signatures.

    But I may be sometimes hyper-sensitive: I am, for example, also troubled by the belief that one must include their address on a signature sheet. Which causes trouble for potential signors. It is used only as an aid to locate the actual signature record at the elections division by elections staff. The date too, notwithstanding the SoS's view, is superfluous, except as an aid for the state's interest in fraud detection of circulators rather than as an independent grounds for rejection of a given signature.

    As to the matter of statistical sampling over complete and thorough counting of all signatures, the petition sponsor is surely within their right to offer to pay for the counting of all the sheets and signatures, and insist upon it in court. The state's interest in use of sampling over complete counting is of course narrowly related to saving money, which cam be directly addressed by the offer of payment by the petition sponsor to perform the complete count.

    Back to the original beef on volunteer versus paid . . . signors often sign just because they favor placement of an issue on a ballot even where they strongly object to the issue contained on a given petition. To say otherwise, that any signor must be a supporter of the issue on a petition would again be like saying that all respondents to a poll conducted by Tim Hibbits must be supporters of the proposition or issue presented by the poll sponsor. Except the sponsor is often not revealed.

    Apply the rules for initiative campaigns to the conduct of phone polls, or at least try to draft a synthesized set of rules that apply equally and neutrally to phone polls and signature-backed polls on placement of an issue on the ballot.

  • Behind the Scenes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Shall we declare all polls to be political advocacy by the entity that pays for the poll? I think that would be too sweeping.

    Why? There is no doubt that they influence as well as predict the outcome. Its pretty obvious that some political pros understand that. They coordinate their ad campaigns to when Hibbits is in the field with his polls, thus showing their candidates as doing better than they would poll without the bump in visibility.

    The difference is that no one "verfies" Hibbit's polls and elections are dynamic enough that when things don't turn out quite as expected it is blamed on late movement, not biased polling.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Your point seems to correspond to discovering the efficacy of the expenditure of advertising dollars. I think private folks could do that all day long. The only possible objection I would raise would be where a given incumbent politician authorizes the use of public dollars to conduct a poll. It at least appears as though some of these polls should instead be paid for by campaigns to elect or re-elect, rather than in the name of government.

    The state interest that is recognized by the US Supreme Court for setting things like a minimum number of signatures for an initiative is the government cost of inclusion of a matter on a ballot. A poll commissioned by a City Council or an Initiative Petition by citizens do not alter that state interest but are rather just two alternative means of effectuating that state interest.

    "There is no doubt that they influence as well as predict the outcome."

    That is equally true of initiative campaigns that involve signatures rather than phone polls. It is analytically odd that the paths are treated as polar opposites, one that is wholly neutral and the other wholly non-neutral, when they both relate to the governmental interest in the cost of placement of a matter on the ballot. An unsucessful petition signature campaign can surely also be construed as an effort by a politician to "frame" an issue they believe is important.

    A City Council does not need any polling data whatsoever to place a matter on the ballot. But halting all publicly paid polling and requiring disclosure of all payors of private polls submitted to government as evidence of support for a measure would be consistent with the recognized state interest as noted here:

    "We explained in Buckley that disclosure provides the electorate with information 'as to where political campaign money comes from and how it is spent,' thereby aiding electors in evaluating those who seek their vote." BUCKLEY V. AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, 525 U.S. 182 (1999)

    This would limit the obvious appearance of impropriety of hiding the special interest that has already leveraged their special interest to get a free poll on the public dole.

  • roman (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Gee, isn't it interesting that the League of Women Voters, which supports taxpayer funded elections, thinks that the County is counting the signatures correctly.

  • Oscar (unverified)
    (Show?)

    roman, lay off the ladies.

    You'd feel better in the morning if you laid off the hookers and coke.

    Money can't buy you love.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Aiona's point is quite reasonable. Volunteer signature gatherers want the petition to qualify and are careful to avoid duplicate signers [I know this from personal experience]. Paid signature gatherers want to maximize their output, regardless of the pay structure, though things are better with an hourly wage than with pay per signature.

  • (Show?)

    Gee, isn't it interesting that the League of Women Voters, which supports taxpayer funded elections, thinks that the County is counting the signatures correctly.

    Roman, do you have any FACTS to support your implication that the signature verification is not producing an accurate count?

    Here's where the spin is coming from folks: Ginny Burdick's PR firm, Gard & Gerber, who are using words like "sabatoge" and "unususal" and "abnormal" without coming up with ANY tangible evidence that anything else happened except their own failure to place an unpopular idea on the May ballot.

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The difference is that no one "verfies" Hibbit's polls and elections are dynamic enough that when things don't turn out quite as expected it is blamed on late movement, not biased polling.

    Personally, I would love to see the accuracy rate of Hibbitts and other pollsters (did they forecast Mayor Potter, for instance?) along with how organizational endorsements turned out. Meaning, how many endorsed candidates won, and were the organizations happy with the people elected? (Bryant endorsed by OEA co-authors a bill to end teacher tenure being the most obvious example).

  • (Show?)

    Tim Hibbits is consistently among the most accurate, most precise pollsters in the state. He seems to get brought into things here just about every other week, but folks, he's just the messenger.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Tom,

    If we were talking about the perceived useful value of a private phone poll, without the ever-present risk of a patently absurd rush to claim hell fire and brimstone illegality, then discussion could be quite liberal.

    The threat of prosecution of signors who, for whatever reason, sign more than once need to instead be just as free from threat as a grumpy recipient of a call from another damn phone poll taker.

    If 190 folks were rounded up and given orange jumpsuits and leg restraints and then paraded as a group before a judge for arraignment what might the judge do? I'd say the judge would come unglued in anger. If the AG does not wish to prosecute enmass, and face the harsh rebuke, then he should advise that such provision should be stricken from the statutes.

    I won't soft-tone that one with notions of maximizing output on the margin. If that would be the state's claimed interest, as opposed to limiting fraud, it would surely not fly in court.

    LT,

    Tim gets dragged in because the unequal treatment of various classes of pollsters remains a grounds for rejection of laws that apply criminality to one and not the other.

  • (Show?)

    Also, the original post had nothing to do with Tim Hibbits, and a discussion of market research methology is off topic.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Ron Ledbury continually loses me....sigh...getting old sucks.

    I will say that if someone signs a petition multiple times he should be charged with a felony and prosecuted if it can be shown that it was indeed a calculated act of sabatoge.

    As for the League of Womens Voters....decades ago they were a valuable non-partisan service organization. Those days are long gone and they are now nothing more than a political action committee. Nothing wrong with that, but I wish they'd be a bit more forthright about their leanings.

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Charlie B., you missed my point. Did Tim H. predict several weeks or months out that Tom Potter would be elected Mayor? Or is that a question that should not be asked because political professionals believe in polls and we should too?

    There seems to be a lot of talk about facts this morning, but here is my question. Either Tim H. polls predicted Tom Potter would be mayor fairly early, or he was one of those "of course Francesconi will win with all that money he has but Potter will make things interesting" folks.

    Seems to me that Tim H. has said friendlier things about Westlund in recent days than about Hill. Is he "just the messenger" in that he knows Westlund will qualify for the ballot but Hill will lose the primary? I ask that as someone who is having fun watching Hill and Westlund compete for my vote instead of this being a "lesser of evils" election.

    But also as someone who has seen polls be reported on a newspaper front page just before an election and turn out to be WRONG! Do losers of close elections in such a circumstance have the right to be angry about that?

    That is what I am asking--accuracy and responsibility of pollsters.

    We can look at official election results and discover, for instance, that in 2004 Cowan lost by 414 votes, Stiegler lost by 548 votes and Howells lost by 825 votes. Those election results don't tell us why they lost, but they show that had 3 elections gone the other way all things being equal there would have been a split House.

    What it is difficult to look up, however, is how many winners/losers Hibbitts predicted a month out or several months out.

    Why is "he's just the messenger" an answer to "How many election winners did Tim Hibbitts or any other pollster predict more than a month before the 2004 election?".

    Or is that a question no one wants to answer?

  • (Show?)

    Gee, isn't it interesting that the League of Women Voters, which supports taxpayer funded elections, thinks that the County is counting the signatures correctly.

    Um, roman, don't you think the opponents of VOE - who were, after all, the sponsors of this thing - would have had their own signature verification watchdogs in the room?

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The opponents of VOE were primarily business community movers and shakers who are worried that their moving and shaking won't matter as much with VOE.....we're talking about fat cats which explains the absence of volunteers to gather the signatures....too much work and too much time away from making more money.

    That being said, even though I strongly back the concept of VOE, I have a consistent 40 year UTTER disdain for politicians who enact substantial changes in public policy rather than refer those key initiatives to the electorate for a thorough public airing and vote. I wish Sten and Potter would have had more confidence in the citizens of Portland to embrace the concept of public financed elections. Their view that "you need to see this work for awhile before you will be smart enough to vote on it" is disgusting.

    Oh well....no VOE in Gresham. We don't have enough fat cats around here to worry about.

  • (Show?)

    That being said, even though I strongly back the concept of VOE, I have a consistent 40 year UTTER disdain for politicians who enact substantial changes in public policy rather than refer those key initiatives to the electorate for a thorough public airing and vote. I wish Sten and Potter would have had more confidence in the citizens of Portland to embrace the concept of public financed elections.

    Politically speaking, it was a great strategic move. They forced their political opponents to spend $350,000 in a failed attempt to try and kill the VOE. In the process, those opponents painted themselves as fatcats who are more concerned with their influence in city hall than they are with public-interested government.

    The words "hoisting them on their own petard" come to mind...

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
    (Show?)

    All it shows me is that they have become or are becoming the very thing they have stood against all these years.

  • (Show?)

    LT: This is not a thread about Hill, Westlund, Hibbits or polling. It's about the League of Women Voters' statement on the power grab signature verification process - despite Ron Ledbury's original word salad comments.

    Charlie in Gresham: The thing that's really missing in the discussion of Voter Owned Elections is that we didn't just get here because of a few forward looking electeds voting for this reform, this effort was in large part a product of a lot of citizen advocacy and community lobbying for the plan in the first place. That's the way our representative democracy works - and giving the system a chance to prove itself before going to a vote is fair and appropriate. That was true before the power grab's paid petition drive and is especially true now they appear to have failed to gather enough support.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Sorry Charlie B. If the citizen advocacy and community involvement we as wide ranging as you describe, Sten and Potter would have seen no need to run and hide from voter approval. They didn't do the work on this that needed to be done, pure and simple.

    The Portland city leaders(?)seem to have a very cynical view of the citizens of Portland. This "try it out before we let you vote" crap is similar to intentionally understating the cost of a tram to OHSU to get the project rolling. They assumed if they had tossed out a $50 million dollar price tag the public would have risen up to stop it. Better to give a "rough" estimate of $15 million to the voters and ease the price tag up over time. Same thing with PGE park, and a myriad of other projects. No group of career politicians and bureacrats can miss budget projections by that much and that often unless it's intentional.

    It's sad....the populists that were swept into office promising more citizen involvement and a better future for Portland have probably stayed too long. They became jaded and no longer trust the judgement of those very same citizens.

  • (Show?)

    Gresham Charlie:

    First, it's surprising that a fellow named Charlie would begin a comment with the grade school flashback "Sorry, Charlie.." but to the main point:

    I think that it's pretty remarkable that the existing city council would vote for a system that makes it more likely - not less - that they'd be removed from office. To me, that's a pretty strong vote of confidence in voters' ability to focus on the issues and make the right choice.

    This isn't just speculation either - if you look at the effect of public financing in Arizona for example, the number of competitive races doubled there from 22% in 1998 (pre-VOE) to 45% in 2002 (post VOE).

    To put the long term interest of Portland ahead of their own personal political interest is exactly what I want from electeds, and although we're not seeing eye to eye on this, that's exactly what's happened here.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
    (Show?)

    OK OK OK Charlie B.

    One last word. The fact is that we DO agree on VOE.

    What we don't agree on is the method Sten and Potter used to enact their version of VOA. We can go forward and agree to disagree on that point.

    In the end, I hope Portland's experiment with publicly financed elections is a huge success. My only concern for the future vote is if some wild zany stripper from Marys Club or a Meth addict running on a pro drug platform qualify for the $$$$$ and rile up the citizenry enough to kill VOA. With the rather low qualifying thresholds, that may indeed be a concern.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Pretend you were counting signatures for a referendum to a legislative enactment that banned abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, and established stiff penalties for doctors who performed them. Visualize the wild-eyed screamers of "baby-killer" sitting at the head of our government.

    Then go back and reread my points in that context. Suppose additionally that the legislature added an emergency clause so as to try to limit a referendum.

    I could have worn the hat of statistician had I taken a different career path long ago. The utterance of the statistical relevance of whether a gather was paid or volunteer has a hint of neutrality but is not free of innuendo and bias. It is puffery that diminishes the perceived neutrality of the League of Women Voters. But that is their choice, and Charlie Burr is also free to push the bounds of puffery rather than preserve the longer-term usefulness of the League.

    Don't forget, I'm the guy would says that Judge Bearden should have voided the extension of special privileges that stem from the marriage statute as contrary to the equal privileges and immunities clause, but only if the ACLU had advocated that the proper procedure be followed such that Multnomah County would have rejected the license requests. The passage of M36 is wholly irrelevant now, as it only affects the name one places to a relationship and says nothing as to the extension of benefits, which is the outer limit of the state's secular authority on the matter; precisely the same today as before M36.

    My point is that there are some clumsy folks guiding public policy. This is just one more example.

    Charlie Burr, I would hope that you would believe that the BlueOregon audience includes lurkers that might apply greater scrutiny than you might yourself perceive.

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Charlie B--great comment until you got to "the electeds".

    I admire the Mayor and city commissioners or councilors or whatever their title is. As the granddaughter of an elected official, call me old fashioned but I think people who won elections deserve to be called by the title of the job they were elected to do.

    <h2>And about your statement "Tim Hibbits is consistently among the most accurate, most precise pollsters in the state.", I'd just like to see some proof.</h2>
elsewhere

connect with blueoregon