Oregon's Ballot Under Criticism (FWD)

DEMOREP1 at aol.com DEMOREP1 at aol.com
Fri Oct 2 23:44:22 PDT 1998

Since ballot access for issues is relatively easy in Oregon, then election
reform methods should be done in Oregon.
Oregon's Ballot Under Criticism


.c The Associated Press 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- It's so easy for Oregon voters to put ballot questions
before the public that political scientists are beginning to wonder if
democracy has gotten out of hand. 

Take this year: There are 14 proposals to be decided in Oregon, more than any
other state. 

If they all pass -- which is unlikely -- they could eventually bankrupt the
state, Oregon State University political scientist William Lunch said. 

One measure before voters in November -- whether to increase sentences for
property crimes -- would cost an estimated $1.2 billion over the next decade.
A voter-approved measure in 1994 forced a $1 billion funding plan for new

If voters repeatedly approve costly measures like these, Lunch said, the
state's general fund, now at $9.6 billion, will run out of money. He predicted
that eventually, courts will have to step in. 

``Many people think they are doing a good thing without realizing the
financial impacts,'' said Jim Westwood, a Portland lawyer. 

This year's proposals range from medical marijuana to cracking down on car

Proponents contend that it's a healthy way to air concerns and jump-start

``If legislators think they have better ideas, they ought to implement them,''
said Kevin Mannix, who has written several state initiatives. 

Getting a measure onto the ballot requires signatures from 6 percent to 8
percent of the voter turnout of the last election, one of the lowest
thresholds in the country. By comparison, Arizona requires 25 percent. 

In recent years, petition supporters have hired professionals to collect
signatures, a practice the state Supreme Court upheld. But that means that
$100,000, spent properly, practically guarantees a spot on the ballot, Lunch

``Any notion that this is the public at large rising up with wrath at an
unresponsive legislature is simply fanciful,'' Lunch said. ``What we have here
is interest-group politics at work.'' 

This year, educators are worried about a proposal would require the state to
set aside 15 percent of lottery revenue for salmon stream restoration and
upkeep of parks. Now, most of the lottery money goes to schools. 

``We absolutely need to keep up our state parks, but not at the expense of
schoolchildren,'' said Jim Sager, president of the Oregon Education

Critics of the state's initiative system take some solace in the knowledge
that about two-thirds of all ballot proposals fail. 

AP-NY-10-03-98 0108EDT 

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