Pot, immigration, food labels likely headed for Oregon ballots
Initiatives that could go before voters include the topics of recreational marijuana legalization, open primaries, and the labeling of genetically modified food.
The Associated Press
PORTLAND — The deadline for advocates to get their issues before Oregon voters this November passed last week with no new additions to a lineup of ballot questions that likely will include the topics of illegal immigration, marijuana legalization and genetically modified food.
Initiatives need just over 87,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot, and measures changing the Oregon Constitution require 116,284 names. The only campaigns to hit those thresholds by Thursday’s deadline used paid signature gatherers.
Elections officials have until Aug. 2 to verify names and decide which initiatives have enough valid signatures to make the November ballot. So far, only one initiative has been officially certified — a proposed equal-rights amendment that would change the state constitution to prohibit state and local governments from discriminating on the basis of gender.
The measure was proposed by Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo of Portland. She and her husband, lawyer and lobbyist John DiLorenzo, contributed most of the $472,000 spent on the signature-gathering effort.
Another certainty is a referendum on driver cards for Oregonians who can’t prove they’re legally in the U.S. The Legislature approved the quasi-licenses last year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to suspend the program and put the issue before voters. Referendums, which allow voters to weigh in on bills adopted by the Legislature, require 58,142 signatures — far fewer than are required for initiatives, which allow citizens to bypass the Legislature and go directly to the ballot with proposed laws.
Advocates submitted more than 140,000 signatures for each of three other proposals. If the measures are certified, voters would be asked to legalize recreational marijuana, require the labeling of genetically modified foods and replace Republican and Democratic party primaries with a single primary election open to all voters.
Oregonians have previously rejected marijuana and open primaries.
Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association, a lobbying group that supports open primaries, said the difference this time around might be the ballot title — often the first thing a voter reads about an issue. Deckert said the language is much less bureaucratic than what was presented to voters six years ago.
“This has been very effective in California and Washington in allowing the fastest-growing political party in America (nonaffiliated voters) to actually participate in elections,” he said of open primaries.
Most proposed ballot measures did not get enough signatures to merit submission. Some started as high-profile campaigns, such as an effort by grocers to end Oregon’s state liquor monopoly.