Oregon Increased Signature Requirements for Constitutional Initiative, Measure 79 (May 2000)

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Oregon Ballot Measure 79 (2000) or House Joint Resolution (HJR) 21 is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would increase the number of signatures needed to place an initiative amendment to the Oregon Constitution on the ballot.

The Oregon Constitution allows the people to directly propose amendments through the initiative process. The people may propose an initiative amendment to the Constitution by a petition signed by a specified number of qualified voters. If the petition contains the required number of signatures, an election is held on the proposed amendment.

Election results

This measure failed at the May 2000 Primary Election.

Measure 79
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No505,08158.59%
Yes 356,912 41.41%

Measure 79 increases the number of signatures required for initiative amendments to the Constitution from 8 percent to 12 percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for Governor at the last election at which a Governor was elected for a full term.[1]

Ballot title

HJR 21 - Amends Constitution: Increases Signatures Required To Place Initiative Amending Constitution On Ballot[2]

Support

[3] Bob Shiprack of the Oregon Building Construction & Trades Council supported the measure, calling the petition process a " growing nuissance." He portrayed initiative campaigns as desperate and unecessary, saying,

"Don't we elect legislators to do this job?
Chief petitioners are circulating petitions and paying companies and individuals to collect signatures for any legal idea they can get a petition for. We find petitioners at the grocery store, coffee shop and any other public venue that might yield an unwitting signature. While none of this is illegal, it is certainly reprehensible.
By increasing the number of signatures needed to verify a ballot by a mere 4%, Oregonians can retake control of their government. Increasing the number of signatures will ensure that at least 12% of recent voting Oregonians have an opportunity to decide what they vote on in the next election."


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon supported the measure for different reasons. They encouraged voters to remember initiatives in the past which discriminated against people and took away basic rights from Oregonians, arguing that measure 79 would force such groups to attain more support before their "divisive measures" were allowed on the ballot.

Many supporters, including the League of Women Voters were concerned with protecting the constitution, aruging that the measure would encourage petitioners to propose changes to statutes instead of the constitution.


Opposition

[4] The Initiative and Referendum Institute opposed the measure. M. Dane Waters of the institute pointed out the measure's benefits to politicians and infringement on Oregonian's rights:

"The Oregon Constitution is a contract between the people of Oregon and their government, and voters have the right to amend this contract to meet the people's needs. Measure 79 would drastically reduce the number of citizen-initiated amendments that make the ballot, while leaving legislators free to put as many amendments on the ballot as they choose.
Politicians don't put amendments on the ballot that challenge their own power, or challenge the power of the special interests that fund their campaigns. Voters need a mechanism to amend their contract with their government that doesn't depend on career politicians, government employees or lobbyists..."

Ralph Nader publicly opposed the measure, calling it an "attempt to expand legislative power by crippling the citizens' initiative rights".

Most of the opposition considered the measure a way of taking power from the people and giving benefits to the legislature. They also saw a double-standard in the fact that it would put restricitions on citizens trying to amend the constitution but not on the legislature. Many who run initiative campaigns in Oregon tend to go for a constitutional amendment, because unlike statutes, it is harder for the legislature to tamper with the law once it is passed.


See also

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