Editorial: For most of measures on ballot, just vote no

2012-10-03T09:15:00Z Editorial: For most of measures on ballot, just vote no Corvallis Gazette Times
October 03, 2012 9:15 am

As shocking as this sounds, we’re just a couple of weeks away from that magic moment when you come back from your mailbox with ballots for this year’s general election in hand.

You’ve probably already heard a lot about the races at the top of the ticket: The presidential races and the races for federal and statewide offices. Chances are good that you’re close to making up your mind about those races.

But, as your gaze continues down the ballot, you’re likely to find some measures that you haven’t spent much, if any, time thinking about — the state and local ballot measures. That’s a shame because these measures are often just as important, if not more so, than the races that draw more publicity.

For a variety of reasons, Oregon and Benton County always have been a magnet for these measures. Part of it is that this kind of democratic initiative is hard-wired into the DNA of Oregon’s electorate, for better or for worse. Some of it, frankly, is citizen discontent with state government — if the Legislature hasn’t dealt with your issue, it’s relatively easy to hit the streets and get a measure on the ballot.

And, as previous elections have amply demonstrated, Oregonians are willing — maybe too willing — to amend the state constitution.

One nasty side effect: Voters are asked to make judgments on issues that frankly deserve the kind of scrutiny they would get in a legislative session, where proponents and opponents have a chance to make detailed cases and must respond to arguments from the other side.

None of that happens with a ballot measure. We’re lucky if voters even pay attention to the 30-second sound bites in screaming TV commercials.

This year in Benton County, voters will have to wade through 10 ballot measures — nine from the state and the county measure to renew its local option levy. If you live in the city, you get those 10, plus another two — one a relatively important annexation vote and the other an advisory vote on the “Move to Amend” effort that sprung up in the wake of the Citizens United ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two of the state ballot measures are relatively minor referrals from the Legislature. Seven are citizen-sponsored initiatives of varying degrees of merit.

If nothing else, you should do a little bit of thinking about the local issues before Election Day — those are the ones that will have a real impact on your life, the “Move to Amend” measure notwithstanding.

We’ll offer our editorial opinions about the ballot measures in the weeks to come, and you’re welcome to share your thoughts as well.

In a pinch, of course, it’s worth remembering this rule of thumb on ballot measures: Vote “yes” on the referrals from the Legislature and “no” on the statewide citizens’ initiatives. As it turns out, this is exactly what voters did in their wisdom in the 2008 election.

One last note: If you’re not registered to vote, better get a move on: Deadline for registration is Oct. 16.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Scott Burress
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    Scott Burress - October 03, 2012 1:22 pm
    Yes, there is a black market for cigarettes. But (and I’m sure you realize this) most people buy cigarettes from stores (legally) and pay the tax. If M80 passes, there will still be a black market for pot, but (I predict) that many, if not most, people will buy pot from liquor stores (legally) and pay the tax, or grow their own. The result will be a diminished (means less, or reduced) black market for weed.

    The black market for weed is part of a larger black market for all illegal drugs. Reducing the black market for weed just might impact the larger black market for all illegal drugs; making harder drugs less common and/or more expensive. Like I said, this is an experiment in democracy. Price point is a key variable (a low cost for herb from a liquor store will hurt the black market more).

    If it passes, federal agents will not be busting regular folks with weed who follow the law (not selling, personal use only), because the federal agents have bigger fish to fry.

    Um, what was your point? Sorry, I forget.
  2. curious one
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    curious one - October 03, 2012 1:02 pm
    Perhaps the writer never attended a hearing at the state legislature where some on the panel slept! Now that's an in depth study - if you believe you learn from your dreams. Also, many don't get the word that something is going through, so don't get a chance to "vote" their opinion on it.

    Then there are the long winded bills that no one understands, like the long editorial that should have started with a list of a few of the measures instead of the on and on and then nothing about specific bills.

    I don't like amending the constitution for many things. A bill/law is one thing, but trying to get a bad amendment out of the constitution is another. Things like the transfer tax (right out of the blue when no one is pushing it), make me want to know why corporations are in favor of it! Taxes on inheritance over a certain amount would be a better way to protect small business including family farms. With no limit, I see the corporate hand in there somewhere.

    The paper could provide a service by exploring each measure and pointing out questionable items. But to vote one way or another on the basis of whether it was referred by the legislature, makes little sense.
  3. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - October 03, 2012 11:33 am
    Scott, measure 80 will be no more an experiment in democracy than any other measure.

    While you are correct that the Constitution says nothing about weed, neither does it specify that heroin or crack cocaine are illegal. It does, however, give authority to the federal government to make laws about these things, and they have.

    If measure 80 passes, we'll be in the same boat as Californians who face federal charges for drug use and sale but not state charges. And instead of paying the local drug dealer on the street corner, weed smokers will find themselves a wonderful new target for the ever cash-hungry state and local governments and their endlessly increasing levels of taxation.

    You're probably aware of this already, but tobacco is legal in every state. (But don't use it on campus, it's against the law to do something legal while on campus.) That doesn't stop people from smuggling cigarettes to avoid the tax stamps. Cigarettes without federal and state and local taxes are cheap. Just like gas without gas taxes. Or beer and wine and liquor.
  4. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - October 03, 2012 11:17 am
    "Voters are asked to make judgments on issues that frankly deserve the kind of scrutiny they would get in a legislative session, where proponents and opponents have a chance to make detailed cases and must respond to arguments from the other side."

    Which state are you talking about? Here in Oregon we have a legislature that is happy to create new laws without listening to anyone who doesn't agree with them. Remember the whopping bad "school zones are 24/7/365" law? Anti-texting/cellphone laws that had a glaring loophole that all you had to do was claim to be working on farm business, and exempts CB radio operators who want to chat but not many emergency services people?

    No, I think putting measures up for a public vote makes just as much sense as a lot of what our "deliberative" legislators, who don't have to listen to anyone but themselves, produce.
  5. Scott Burress
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    Scott Burress - October 03, 2012 10:19 am
    We are lucky that we live in such a large country – 50 states, each with their own set of laws, subordinate to one over-arching Constitution. We can think of the individual states as separate labs where we can conduct democracy experiments.

    Consider Measure 80, which will legalize and tax marijuana use for adults, and impose specific penalties on selling or giving it to minors. Personal use and possession will be allowed without restriction for those 21 and older. Selling it will require a license, just like selling alcohol.

    If Measure 80 passes, it would be an experiment in democracy. Marijuana is allowed under the U.S. Constitution – in other words, there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the personal use of marijuana or that makes it illegal. So, the experiment *should* be allowed to proceed. As with any experiment, no one really knows how it will turn out. My guess is that the whole black market of illegal drug delivery will take a hit (pardon the pun) – I mean that the black market will be diminished. And, after enough time (a couple of years), I would guess that the use of harder drugs, like smack and coke, would also diminish. Less people on hard drugs would be a good thing.

    The editor’s rule of thumb is for people who can’t or don’t think for themselves. Voting ‘No’ on a measure simply because it is a citizen initiative is both thoughtless and stupid. I just hope that the people who can’t or don’t think for themselves are few and far between.
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