Portland City Auditor Declines to Strike Down Charter Reform Ballot Language

The city auditor said she does not review ballot measures referred to voters by the Charter Commission.

Last Friday, the Portland Business Alliance sent a letter to the City Auditor and Elections Officer, asking that they strike down the ballot measure language that will appear on voters’ November ballots and offer them the chance to transform the city’s governance structure and elections.

This afternoon City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero declined to do so. She says her office doesn’t have the authority to review ballot measures referred to voters by the Charter Commission, an independent commission appointed by City Council every 10 years to refer government reforms to Portland voters.

The Charter Commission approved the reforms in question with a supermajority vote: 17-3. On July 6, the City Attorney’s Office published the ballot question that voters will see on their November ballots.

At issue for the PBA, as well as other opposition that’s formed, is the bundling of three significant reforms into one single ballot question. The PBA supports scrapping the commission form of government and adopting a city administrator, but is worried that the other two reforms—multi-member districts and ranked-choice voting—will bog the measure down.

The PBA is poised to file a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court later this week in an attempt to get the three reforms parsed out into individual questions.

Last week, charter commissions assured city council members that the bundling of the three reforms would meet legal muster. So did the City Attorney’s Office in March.