Three former Oregon secretaries of state today called on the current secretary of state, Republican Dennis Richardson, to investigate allegations of signature gathering fraud on initiative petition 31, an anti-tax measure that has qualified for the November ballot.
The three, all Democrats, are former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Bill Bradbury and Jeanne Atkins, who is Richardson's predecessor and the chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon.
As WW first reported, a woman named Connea Derber filed complaints with the secretary of state's elections division and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries alleging that a representative of Ballot Access LLC had allowed Derber to collect signatures improperly; had fraudulently signed signature sheets and proposed improper payment by signature. Ballot Access denied any wrongdoing.
Despite Derber's complaints, Richardson's office quickly determined that IP 31 qualified for the November ballot.
The initiative, funded primarily by the Oregon Association of Realtors, would amend the Oregon Constitution to require a three-fifths vote of both legislative chambers for any measure that raises new revenue in any fashion. (Currently, new taxes require three-fifths votes but other measures, such as reducing or eliminating existing tax breaks do not).
"Even though, the Secretary of State's office has said they've completed verification of Initiative Petition 31, the Oregon Constitution allows until August 5th for the Secretary of State to review whether or not a measure should be certified for the ballot," said the statement issued by the three former SOSs. "We strongly urge the Secretary to use all the rules and laws at his disposal to take the time to fully investigate the civil allegations against IP 31 before putting this measure in front of voters."
Debra Royal, Richardson's chief of staff, says the elections division has taken the appropriate steps.
"The complaint was referred to the attorney general as it is a criminal allegation, and it was referred on the same day it was received," Royal said in an email. "Even if the AG determines the allegations to be true and all signatures in question were disregarded, the initiative still had enough signatures to easily qualify."