by Jason Kafoury
March 18, 2022 — Today the Oregon Supreme Court denied the mandamus petition of campaign finance reformers to challenge Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s unprecedented rejection of Initiative Petitions 43, 44, and 45, disqualifying all of them from appearing on the November 2022 ballot.
The Court’s media release appears here:
Her action was based on misinterpretation of the Oregon Constitution: “The full text of the proposed measure was not included.” No other Oregon Secretary of State has required including in an initiative petition the text of subsections of existing law that are not changed by the proposed measure.
The Oregon Supreme Court stated in its very brief opinion that the Justices “decline to exercise our discretionary mandamus jurisdiction in this case.” They did not issue any decision about the merits of the case or whether the Secretary of State’s actions were lawful. Such decisions will have to be made in a future case. They invited the petitioners to seek reconsideration of their decision by March 22, which the petitioners will do.
“Secretary Fagan’s interpretation of the Oregon Constitution denies Oregonians their only chance this year to VOTE on getting big money out of Oregon politics. Moving the bar also creates a high degree of uncertainty for future initiative petitioners.” — James Ofsink, IP43-45 Chief Petitioner and President of Portland Forward.
The mandamus action shows examples from prior Secretaries of State, the Oregon Courts, and the Legislature, of earlier “full text” interpretations: measures only needed to show the text being altered. The Oregon Supreme Court previously held: “The petition must carry the exact language of the proposed measure. It need include nothing more” (Schnell v. Appling, 1964).
“Oregon voters overwhelmingly support campaign finance reform, but mega-donors are tipping the scales on Oregon races from school board to Governor. Our elections are among the most expensive per capita in the U.S. We call on the Supreme Court to accept our petition and reverse the Secretary’s unprecedented new requirements, so voters can restore balance to Oregon democracy.” — Rebecca Gladstone, President, League of Women Voters of Oregon and IP 43-45 Chief Petitioner.