Our Elections Division has received a number of complaints about some of the arguments that made their way into the Voter’s Pamphlet for the upcoming Special Election.
The Albany Democrat Herald explains the stir-up:
The state last week mailed Voters’ Pamphlets to 1.7 million addresses. Backers and opponents paid $500 per statement to the state to have their arguments for and against the measures included.
Kevin Looper of “Our Oregon,” a Portland-based nonprofit, managed to get his arguments supporting the measures — labeled as opposition — placed last in the lineup of arguments against them. He also managed to be first in the opposition column.
This has raised the eyebrows and the ire of a number of Oregon voters, so we wanted to clear any confusion surrounding the process for filing an argument to be placed in the Voter’s Pamphlet and the role of the Secretary of State’s office in that process.
Any individual who files an argument to be printed in the voters’ pamphlet indicates on the filing form whether the argument submitted is in support or opposition to the measure. All arguments are printed in the voters’ pamphlet in the order they are received by our office. Our office then reviews each argument and if it appears that the information regarding a measure number or the designation of whether the argument supports or opposes the measure is incorrect, we contact the author to inquire if they made an error. If the author advises us that it is not an error, we are required to place the argument in the voters’ pamphlet as they have indicated, and in the order received in our office. This process is outlined and dictated by state law in ORS 251.260.
The Secretary of State’s Office does not have the legal authority to verify a given statement’s accuracy nor to edit it for content.
A recent article from the Oregonian provides a little historical background on the topic:
Here’s something to keep in mind: The secretary of state has compiled Voters’ Pamphlets since 1903. It’s a long tradition meant to help the public make important decisions. But, by law, the secretary of state cannot verify the truth and accuracy of statements in the pamphlet.
“We have a pretty strong constitutional protection of free speech in this state,” Secretary of State Kate Brown said Saturday.
Instead of state-issued statements, Brown said the Voters’ Pamphlet provides Oregonians “with a full range of arguments.”
Don’t be surprised if you detect some sarcasm and satire among those statements. The lead-off “argument” in opposition to Measure 66 was submitted by Kevin Looper, who is helping to coordinate the “pro” campaign.
In one of the most outrageous examples, in 2004, the phony “Defense of Heterosexual Breeding Coalition” put a statement in the pamphlet in support of Measure 36, a constitutional amendment recognizing that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
We hope that this clears up any misconceptions that may be out there about this process. If you have any further questions, go ahead and leave us a comment below.