Now that the Legislature has wrapped up its 2014 short session and the filing deadline for the election has passed, attention shifts to the ballot measures that are jostling for a place on the November ballot.

That means our public places soon will be packed again with people clamoring to get you to sign a petition to place one issue or another on the ballot.

We know that sometimes the easiest thing is just to stop and sign the things. What harm can it do?

Before you do that, though, cast your thoughts back to the 2012 election. Remember working your way back to the end of the ballot and that horrifying discovery lurking there: Nine — count ’em again, if you dare, nine — statewide ballot measures?

This year already, three measures have qualified for the November ballot. At least one of those seems like it might be controversial — a measure that would overturn the Legislature’s 2013 decision to authorize so-called “alternative” driver’s licenses, a hot-button immigration issue.

At this writing, 17 other measures are trying to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. They include some potential blockbusters such as a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and another initiative to allow same-sex marriage.

Other measures potentially making their way to the ballot include initiatives that would require labeling of foods that include genetically modified organisms, privatize liquor sales and ban trapping.

Not all of those 17 measures will qualify for the ballot, of course. In the 2012 election, that year when nine measures qualified for the ballot, another 31 failed to make the cut.

Initiatives seeking to amend the state’s constitution require 116,284 signatures from registered voters. Initiatives seeking to amend state statutes face a lower burden: 87,213 signatures.

That’s where you come in.

When you get buttonholed by a signature gatherer — and we guarantee this will happen to you soon — we recommend that you flash back to your 2012 ballot experience.

Ask your new friend about the measure he or she is pushing. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the measure, our advice is simple:

Politely decline to sign.

We love that Oregon citizens are engaged enough in the political process to take matters like these into their own hands. But that doesn’t mean that all of these are good ideas — and, to make a finer point, many of these measures would be better-suited for the Legislature, which usually is a better place to consider complex proposals — and which, in fact, is designed in part to kill bad ideas.

When it comes to initiatives, keeping silly ideas off the ballot begins with you. Silly season is about to begin. Be forewarned.

(5) comments

TruthIs
TruthIs

Ask your new friend about the measure he or she is pushing. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the measure, our advice is simple:

Politely decline to sign.

Strikingly bizarre (actually kind of elitist) "advice" from the press in our form of government. Especially when coupled with this:

and, to make a finer point, many of these measures would be better-suited for the Legislature, which usually is a better place to consider complex proposals

if you know how our Legislature actually works. In addition, the Legislature has unrestricted power to amend or repeal a statute enacted by initiative if you do have faith in the Legislature's ability to consider complex proposals:

National Conference of State Legislatures website

In the remaining initiative states (Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah), the Legislature may amend or repeal an initiative statute with a simple majority vote.

captain america
captain america

Why does the GT fear this concept so much?

Beaversrule
Beaversrule

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." ~Churchill

This editorial offers sound advice: If you don't understand the issue, please do not sign. Special interest groups put all kinds of little tricks in these initiatives. The fewer initiatives on the ballot, the more thought voters can give to these serious matters.

TheRealJules
TheRealJules

"The fewer initiatives on the ballot, the more thought voters can give to these serious matters. "
The fewer initiatives on the ballot, the fewer complicated things for voters to think about in the first place. Yes, 'rule, voters are dumb because they sometimes support things you don't agree with. A fine argument against the initiative process.

Scott Burress
Scott Burress

GT’s advice: If you have any doubt whatsoever about the measure, our advice is simple: Politely decline to sign.

My advice is different. Tell the signature gatherer that you’d like to read it, and then read the ballot measure proposal (they are required to have it handy for you). If you understand it and you agree with it, then sign it. If you disagree, don’t sign it. If you’re ambivalent, really in the middle, maybe you should sign it. This will just get it on the ballot to let the voters decide.

The GT recommends that you ask the signature gatherer about the measure, but the GT doesn’t suggest you to read it before deciding whether to sign it. Again, I recommend that you read it. Skip asking about it. Some of them get paid based on how many signatures they gather. So, they are biased. Decide based on the text, not what the signature gatherer says.

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