January 5th, 2010 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Why The Oregon Voters' Pamphlet Is Confusing

Voters' Pamphlet

Oregonians received a remarkably thick Voters' Pamphlet last week, considering there are only two items on the Jan. 26 ballot—Measure 66, a personal income tax increase; and Measure 67, a corporate tax increase.

The 92-page pamphlet contains 204 arguments, 136 for the measures and 68 against. But what's really unusual is the the first and last arguments against each measure were submitted by Kevin Looper of Our Oregon, who is running the "yes" side of both measures.

Unsurprisingly, Looper isn't advocating against the measures he's working to pass but instead warns voters "it's easy to get confused. Make sure you know what your vote means before you cast your ballot." He then lists talking points from each side.

Pat McCormick, a spokesman for opponents of the tax measures, says his opponents' attempt to manipulate the Voters' Pamphlet is not surprising as it followed a failed "no means yes" attempt to change how voters mark ballots on referenda and a delay in the governor signing tax measures into law. The latter had the effect of delaying signature gathering to refer measures to the ballot.

"The game-playing around this whole set of issues from the beginning has been irritating and childish and hardly reflective of the kind of public policy debate you'd expect Oregonians to have," McCormick says.

Scott Moore, a spokesman for the "yes" campaign says his side did nothing wrong. "We were able to get in first and last [in the pamphlet] by following the rules," says Moore, who previously served as a spokesman in the Secretary of State's office. "We were there when the window opened and when it closed. I think other campaigns previously have known that it was possible to do so."

Don Hamilton, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown, whose elections office published 1.7 million Voters' Pamphlets confirms that arguments are put into the guide in chronological order based on when they are received. "That's the way it has always been done," Hamilton says.

As for the content of the arguments, Hamilton says elections officials cannot edit submissions or reject them based on content except in extraordinary circumstances. Anybody who ponies up the $500 to publish an argument can take advantage of Oregon's expansive free speech rules to say pretty much what they please.

"If they check the box that says 'yes' and then say 'no' we may call them to make sure they have not made an error," Hamilton says. "If they say it's not an error, we can't do anything. We also don't do fact-checking because that would be like the state telling voters what to do."
 
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