It doesn’t matter if the culprits are Russians, Republicans or Democrats — meddling in Oregon elections is wrong. And there is meddling afoot. The culprits are Democrats in the Oregon Legislature.
Democrats on the House Rules Committee on Saturday pushed through an amendment to Senate Bill 229 that seeks to tilt an election to Democratic advantage.
How does it do that?
Voters have the right under the Oregon Constitution to challenge new laws. If a group of voters gathers enough signatures, it can get the law on the ballot.
The SB 229 amendment changes the way that election would work for any law passed by the Legislature this session.
Normally there’s at least an attempt by the state to make writing the all-important ballot title and explanatory statement an objective process. The amendment would kick that out the door. A special legislative committee dominated by Democrats would craft the ballot language, surely to partisan advantage.
The amendment also moves the timing of the election from when it would normally be in the November 2018 general election to a special election in January 2018. Voter turnout is typically lower in special elections. Do Democrats want lower turnout? A special election will also cost the state perhaps $3 million that could surely be better spent.
The reason for these shenanigans is a fight over taxes. Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, has vowed to gather signatures to fight a new law that would put a 1.5 percent tax on some health care premiums. As she said, why make health care more expensive than it already is?
Democrats say they want to move the election to January, allowing them to close the fiscal hole sooner if voters kill the tax. But if that’s all they wanted to do, there is no need for them to seize control of the power to write the ballot title and explanatory statement.
Such manipulation by the Legislature’s majority party may seem a justified exertion of power. But majorities are not forever. And if another party gets a majority in Oregon, that party will be able to point to this episode as precedent for its own meddling.
Just ask Democrats in Congress if they are happy now that they chose to meddle with the rules for the approval of federal judges. Republicans took that meddling and ran with it to get Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court.