Because the legitimate Oregon Special Election ballots are scheduled to begin arriving this week, I have serious concerns that these imitation ballots are meant to cause confusion that could ultimately drive down voter turnout.
Under Oregon's election laws, it is illegal to circulate an imitation of a ballot, or a sample ballot, unless it “contains the following statement in bold type: “NOT FOR OFFICIAL USE.” ORS 260.695(1). Nelson's imitation ballot does not contain that specific language; instead, it has a different disclaimer than the one required by Oregon law. That disclaimer is in normal type, not bold type, and is much lighter than all the bold type around it. The document clearly violates the letter of the law.
Far worse than the technical violation, the League believes that Nelson's imitation ballot clearly violates the spirit of the law. Nelson's ballot appears intended to confuse voters. At the bottom of the imitation ballot, Nelson refers to it as an actual “ballot.” The statement at the bottom of the page tells recipients to “place your completed ballot in the enclosed postage-paid envelope and mail it promptly.” (Emphasis added). Voters easily could be led to believe that the document received from Nelson is a “ballot.” Voter confusion also could be caused by the question at the bottom of the document: “Have you already voted by mail?” (Emphasis added). This sentence, when read together with the “return your ballot” language strongly implies that by completing Nelson's document, the voter is actually voting on the ballot measures. But what happens when a voter's legitimate ballot arrives in the mail? I believe that many voters will think they've already voted and will discard their legitimate ballot to avoid breaking the law against voting more than once.