Oregon’s House and Senate are dominated by Democrats. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that so long as those in power don’t use their advantage to ride roughshod over those with whom they disagree.
But that’s exactly what could happen with Senate Bill 761, and an amendment to the measure would only make matters worse.
As initially written, the bill would make it far more difficult to gather signatures for petitions. It would change the rules for what are called e-sheets, electronically generated petition signature sheets, when gathering signatures to put an initiative, referendum or recall petition on the ballot. The bill would undo action by former Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins that allowed the e-sheets to be distributed in newsletters. The Oregon Education Association did that effectively in 2016, according to testimony on the bill.
If the original bill were to become law e-sheets would still be allowed, but each voter hoping to sign one would have to print it out for his or her use alone. Worse, if a single volunteer violated the you-print, you-sign law, the Secretary of State’s Office could accept no more e-sheets from anyone after that date. That, supporters say, would prevent fraud.
But the facts don’t support the notion that e-sheets increase the chances of fraud. According to testimony from the Secretary of State’s Office Monday, there’s actually less fraud among e-sheet signers than elsewhere. Well over 90 percent of e-sheet signatures are valid, office officials reported, compared with less than 90 percent validity on old-fashioned petitions.
The bill’s original form was bad enough. A proposed amendment would bar the secretary of state from issuing templates for e-sheets at all, at least until 2023. Moreover, the amendment carries an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective as soon as the governor signed it, derailing any attempt to have it overturned.
It is, in other words, a naked attempt to bar challenges to tax measures adopted by this Legislature that Democratic lawmakers fear might be overturned by voters.
It would make it far more difficult for opponents of the Legislature’s hidden sales tax bill — approved earlier this month and already signed into law — to attempt to challenge the measure at the ballot box. It would have the same effect on any other bill an unhappy group sought to have overturned. In other words, it’s a direct attempt to undermine the power of voters and hand it to Democratic lawmakers. It’s a thoroughly undemocratic idea.