Measure 56

Jeff Alworth

Title: Provides that May and November property tax elections are decided by majority of voters voting.  Provides that May and November property tax elections are decided  by majority of voters voting. 
Sponsor: Oregon Legislature
Type: Constitutional
What it Does: Repeals the double-majority rule on all primary and general elections; double-majority rule would still be in place for other elections
What it Costs: $0

Back in 1996, when he still had a little juice, Bill Sizemore had one of his big ideas: since governments regularly go to voters and ask them to approve tax hikes, why not make it harder?  His solution was to disallow any vote in which fewer than 50% of registered voters cast a ballot.  The effect has been to empower non-voters and kill many local levies and bonds.  According to the League of Oregon Cities (.pdf), the double-majority law killed 17% of voter-passed bond measures, and 27% of levies.

The current legislation would exempt primary and general elections from the double-majority law.  It would still apply in special elections.  According to the Oregonian, one of the only valid justifications for the law was to circumvent  the practice by local governments of "passing tax increases in minor elections when voters aren't paying attention."  But as they point out, this tactic has been blocked by law revisions and vote-by-mail balloting and so the remedy is no longer needed.

Measure 56 really poses a philosophical question to voters: who should have the right to make law in Oregon--those who vote or those who can't be bothered?  Sizemore is fairly transparent about his motivations here.  He thinks that not voting is the same as expressing disapproval.  But that's not how it works in a democracy.  You actually have to go out and cast your ballot to register your opinion.  Measure 56 just restores this basic principle to voting.


  • Hal (unverified)

    The problem is the size of government and massive government employee unions have distorted the basic prinicipal in voting allowing them to essentially pass legislation to enrich their bureaucracies and themselves by flooding the balot boxes. It seems that every time democrats discuss this issue they can't even imagine that to be a problem. It's obvious you are deliberately ignoring this reality as you seek to extend that power as it also represents the core support of democrats.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    I am just wondering...Why didn't the legislature go for the whole enchilada and repeal all the double majority items in the constitution? Why do it piecemeal when you can do it all in one swipe? I am inclined to vote NO until it is ALL wiped out.

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    I don't know, Eric. But I suspect it may be a single-subject rule issue. In Oregon, ballot measures may only include a single subject. How that's applied is a matter for debate and litigation.

  • Paul Wilson (unverified)

    As a Democrat I strongly favor any measure that will raise my taxes and property taxes. We need higher taxes and more regulation in Amerika - especially now that the economy is tanking.

  • RNinOR (unverified)

    As a Democrat I strongly favor any measure that will raise my taxes and property taxes

    As a republican you favor any measure that will cut all services to people so we have in Oregon streets full of homeless, countrysides full of meth labs and ERs full of uninsured. That's a republican wet dream.

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    Public employees just aren't that much of the electorate.

    You are also ignoring the fact that the main effect of this is not on statewide revenue measures, but on local measures.

    I thought it was the conservative/Republican to favor local level decision-making? I guess it is except when it isn't

  • (Show?)

    Oh-- just catching up on my BlueOregon, I see I'm a little late to this party. Thanks for putting some focus on this important measure.

    The bond measures in question are generally decisions that can ONLY be made by popular vote. So if a school districts is facing major cuts, and it doesn't happen to be an even-numbered year, they are effectively denied the opportunity to raise money through a bond.

    <h2>The supermajority sucks. Revenue measures shouldn't be in a special class; there are all kinds of important issues, and if we're going to have elections at various times, we should be able to address any one of them in any of those elections. No need for artificial distinctions.</h2>

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