Thanksgiving Thoughts on Measure 92

Rick North Facebook

Here’s to all the people who place principle over profit, enthusiasm over cynicism, hope over despair.

The final results of Measure 92, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered food, are in:

No 753,473 50.03%
Yes 752,664 49.97%

Difference 809

The morning after Election Night, the No lead was almost 46,000 votes. This has shriveled as virtually every county’s late votes have come in at a higher Yes rate than the earlier ones. This photo finish is well below the approximately 3,000 threshold required to kick in a state recount, which should begin on or around Tuesday, Dec. 2 and end within two weeks.

To be sure, it’s challenging to reverse a decision. An 809 vote difference out of 1.5 million ballots is miniscule, but still formidable when considering Oregon’s clean election system. With this many votes, however, it’s almost inevitable there will be some human and machine error. For example, the 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State initially found Dino Rossi winning by 261 votes, but the recount gave Christine Gregoire the final victory by 129 votes.

Most media coverage of Measure 92 has been about the numbers, which are certainly riveting. But what’s missing is the human element, the untold story that’s the foundation for everything that’s happened.

On the last day that voters could correct their ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 18, I was canvassing in Yamhill County, seeking people who were supportive to ask them to correct their mismatched or missing signatures.

It hadn’t been going well. Many people weren’t home, so all I could do was leave a note asking them to drive to the elections office in McMinnville to take corrective action by 5:00 p.m., a real long shot since many were working. Moreover, I had made several wrong turns on way-out-there dirt roads and was cursing the inadequacy of Google maps in the hills of Oregon wine country.

Then, on my next-to-last stop around 3:00, I met Casey. He lived in a small, well-worn home and was watching a basketball game on TV when he answered the door. I explained that he’d forgotten to sign his ballot, the election was extremely close, every vote counted, and could he please drive to McMinnville before 5:00 to validate his ballot?

He listened, looked sympathetically at me, and said, “You know, you’ve come all the way out here just to talk to me. The least I can do is go sign my ballot.”

All I could blurt out was repeated thank you’s and “You just made my day” as I floated away with the thought that at least I got ONE confirmed Yes for the day.

But once I got in my car, the inevitable doubts descended. Yeah, he said he’d go to McMinnville just to send me away happy, but he’ll probably just go back to his game on TV.

After my last stop, (sigh, no one home again), I drove to the elections office myself to meet my contact person to give her my list of names and results. And as I walked in, there was Casey at the counter, an hour before the deadline, waiting to sign his ballot. I called his name and thanked him profusely again. He just looked at me and smiled. This Casey hadn’t struck out.

Here’s to all the Casey’s of Oregon, who talk to strangers at their door, then go the extra mile (in this case, miles, literally) to exercise their right to vote for what they believe in, the right that so many people worked and died for.

And here’s to all the hundreds of Yes on 92 volunteers, who spent hours in the wind and cold, and, in central Oregon, tons of snow. Volunteers like Martha, who drove down from Seattle to make phone calls and go door-to-door for four days, even as far as Benton County, where the campaign needed her most. Volunteers like Lucinda, who called the Secretary of State’s office herself, got the list of voters with invalid ballots in western Washington County, all 179 of them, and went out to meet them on her own.

Here’s to all the people who place principle over profit, enthusiasm over cynicism, hope over despair.

And here’s to Oregon, a state that allows, no, encourages these shining stars of humanity.

As I write this, it’s still a few days to Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I could feel any more grateful than I do right now.

connect with blueoregon