Salem, OR—The Oregon Constitution requires that after the Legislature passes a tax increase, the people shall have the power to veto it through the referendum process. This referendum process enables the people to overrule politicians in Salem. The referendum is the “people's veto” and gives Oregonians, who can collect enough signatures within 90 days, the opportunity to have such tax increases placed on the ballot for a democratic vote. This right of referendum was adopted by the voters in 1902 and is essential to our democracy. This year, and back in 2009, the legislature passed laws to circumvent the time-tested referendum process.
On July 6, 2017 the legislature passed Senate Bill 229. This bill avoids the existing referendum process in the following important ways:
First, it moved the referendum date from the November 2018 general election to a special election on January 23, 2018; second, it removed the Attorney General's authority to write the ballot title and gave that authority to a partisan legislative committee; third, it removed the authority to write an explanatory statement from a balanced, nonpartisan committee and gave that authority to a partisan legislative committee; and forth, it instructed the Secretary of State to create a timeline for the special referendum process.
In accordance with the Secretary of State's responsibilities under Senate Bill 229, the Elections Division announced today the special election timeline which (unlike the 2009 referendum timeline which gave only 33 hours for public comment), provides sufficient time for both public input and judicial review.
In short, today's proposed special election timeline attempts to follow the time-tested election process, while ensuring ample time for public comment, legislative drafting, and Supreme Court review.
The Secretary of State's ultimate obligation is to you, the people of Oregon, and is dedicated to ensuring a fair referendum election. This timeline aligns as closely as possible with the established statutory process as if the Attorney General were drafting the ballot title. The timeline below gives the partisan legislative committee two and a half weeks to draft a ballot title. This is even longer than the Attorney General normally has to draft a ballot title. The proposed timeline also aligns with the Attorney General's customary process of providing the important opportunity for the public to comment on the draft before it is finalized. After the period for public comment is past, the partisan legislative committee then has two weeks to review public comments, respond to criticism for partisan drafting, make necessary improvements to the language, and certify a final ballot title. Under today's timeline, the Oregon Supreme Court has only five weeks for judicial review—a process which normally requires months.
Back in 2009, the legislature circumvented the customary process for writing the ballot titles for Measures 66 and 67. For those Measures, only 33 hours were provided for public comment, then, 20 hours later the final ballot titles were passed. Then, only a few weeks were allowed for Supreme Court review. This was insufficient time. It was a charade that violated the fundamental fairness of the democratic process. Today's timeline corrects the 2009 inadequacies by providing adequate time for public participation and Supreme Court review.
The calendar below sets forth the timeline. If you believe the timeline is appropriate to enable adequate time for public involvement and Supreme Court review, please email us at email@example.com
. If you have comments or suggestions to improve this timeline, our Elections Division would also like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org