This session, ACLU testified in support of two initiative reform bills, both of which passed, and in opposition to a third bill that would have set a tight deadline for the Oregon Supreme Court to act on ballot title challenges.
Ballot Title Shopping (HB 2941)
HB 2941 directs the Attorney General to provide identical draft ballot titles for state initiatives if the Attorney General determines the proposals are substantially similar. ACLU actively monitors the initiative process, often commenting on proposed ballot titles, challenging the constitutionality of proposed initiatives when they are first filed, participating in ballot measure campaigns, and occasionally challenging the constitutionality of measures after they have been approved by voters.
For many years, proponents of initiatives have engaged in what is called “ballot title shopping.” Chief petitioners submit almost identical initiatives (often filing multiple versions on the very same day) and then only advance the initiative that they believe has the most favorable ballot title. Prior to HB 2941, state law required the Attorney General to issue unique ballot titles for each proposed initiative. We supported HB 2941 as an appropriate response to this type of activity. We successfully offered an amendment to provide that the requirement of identical ballot titles would be limited to one two-year election cycle so the Attorney General’s office could make an independent analysis in a future election cycle.
WIN: PASSED INTO LAW
Local Initiative Process (HB 3033)
In 2003, ACLU and our pro-choice coalition partners successfully defeated a Columbia County ordinance that would have required parental consent for any county public services to minors. We realized at that time that unlike state ballot measures, which allow for a two-year signature collection process, local initiatives often have no restrictions and sometimes can be circulated for years to collect signatures before being submitted to the voters. HB 3033 brings local initiatives in line with the two-year limitation for circulation and signature collection of state initiatives, and we testified in support.
WIN: PASSED INTO LAW
Supreme Court Review of Ballot Titles (SB 337)
SB 337 would have directed the Oregon Supreme Court to rule on every ballot title challenge within 45 days of taking it under advisement. ACLU opposed SB 337. The Oregon Supreme Court (unlike the U.S. Supreme Court) has no timeline upon which it has to rule on any given case. Indeed, the Court often takes months, and in a few cases, years, to rule on cases. While we believe that the Court should rule on all cases in a timely manner, we do not believe ballot title cases should be given precedence over any other type of case before the Court. As a practical matter, the Court usually decides ballot title cases much more quickly than other cases before it.
WIN: DIED IN COMMITTEE