Voters in Oregon can send initiatives to the ballot without going through the state legislature, a county commission or a city council. Instead, someone wanting to propose a change to existing laws can collect signatures to send a measure directly to voters.
The deadlines to collect those signatures for the upcoming general election are fast approaching: July 8 is the deadline for state and city petitions and July 18 is the deadline for Multnomah County. As a result, you’ll likely see signature collectors or social media posts pushing hard to get you to sign their petition through Friday. County and city-level
Exactly how many signatures a campaign must gather depends governmental jurisdiction. If, for instance, you’re looking to change a law in the City of Portland, you’ll need 40,748 signatures by July 8 to get on the ballot. If you want to change a state law, you need 112,020. Changing the state constitution requires 149,360 signatures. Each of these requirements is based on voter turnout in the last major election. So, while the numbers above are valid for 2022, we won’t know the numbers for 2024 until after this year’s election is complete. All of those signatures have to be from registered voters living in the correct area, so each submitted signature must be verified before acceptance.
Key campaigns collecting signatures
The State of Oregon alone lists 46 active initiative campaigns, so we’re not going to go through each individual initiative. Not all of those campaigns are actually active, for the record — many still haven’t been certified to circulate petitions, so they probably won’t make a July deadline. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts:
Evictions play a big role in our current housing crises. As many as 62 percent of Oregon evictions lead to people staying in shelters or transitional housing. Despite laws and ordinances meant to lessen the number of evictions, most tenants facing eviction have no way to get legal advice during the process. A ballot initiative in Multnomah County hopes to change that, at least for folks facing evictions within the county. The Eviction Representation for All measure would provide no-cost legal support to tenants, in order to reduce the overall number of evictions. To fund that support, the initiative proposes a tax of 0.75% on capital gains to raise an estimated $12 to $15 million per year.
The campaign has already seen challenges from the Portland Business Alliance, as well minimal support from Multnomah County Commissioners. However, public support seems to be growing as pandemic eviction limits expire and housing prices continue to rise.
If you’re interested in signing the petition to place Eviction Representation for All on the ballot, you can print a signature page from the campaign’s website and follow the included instructions for submission. You can also find their petition gatherers at a variety of locations, including several farmers’ markets.
Republican legislators here in Oregon have walked out on votes multiple times. Labor unions are funding an effort to limit such walkouts. The proposed initiative would amend the constitution to bar state senators and representatives from re-election if they are absent ten or more times in a single legislative session. Absences approved by the speaker of the Oregon House and the president of the Oregon Senate would not count towards a potential ban.
This initiative may have the best chance of making it on to the ballot of any state-level proposal. As of May 27, the campaign had submitted 183,942 signatures, although those signatures have not been fully verified at the time of writing this piece. Even if 40,000 of those signatures turn out to be unverifiable, Legislative Accountability 1 will still be on the ballot. And once there, its odds of passing are good. Supporters report that 84 percent of likely voters who were polled support the proposal.
Lift Every Voice Oregon, a non-profit coalition of faith-based communities working to reduce gun violence, is the main organizer behind the Reduction of Gun Violence Act. If passed, the measure would strengthen requirements for purchasing firearms in the state and ban certain types of ammunition magazines.
The campaign picked up major support, including volunteers to collect signatures, in May. The influx is likely due to the media around recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. This effort to reduce gun violence is up against the deadline. As of June 30, the campaign had gathered 96,627 signatures, leaving more than 15,000 signatures to still collect. Having several thousand extra signatures would also come in handy, just in case many signatures can’t be verified. The campaign has a good chance of meeting the deadline, though, with yet another mas shooting taking place yesterday in Highland Park, Illinois.
If you’re interested in signing the petition to place the Reduction of Gun Violence Act on the ballot, you can print a signature page from Lift Every Voice Oregon’s website and follow the included instructions for submission.
Already on the ballot
We already know a few measures that will be on the ballot this fall. While no ballot initiatives have officially qualified yet, legislative bodies have already referred measures to the ballot. They get to bypass the petition process and actually have until August 19 to file with elections officials. Those include:
- Right to Healthcare Amendment, which will update the state constitution to guarantee that every resident of Oregon has a right to affordable healthcare
- Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime from Constitution Amendment, which will repeal constitutional language allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments
- Multnomah County Charter Amendments, which will implement ranked-choice voting for the county, eliminate citizenship requirements for voters, and remove gendered language from the Multnomah county charter
- Portland City Charter Commission Referral, which will amend the Portland city charter to change the city government’s structure and electoral process
- Portland Community College Bond, which will maintain current tax rates and use funds to update infrastructure, expand facilities, and improve health and safety
There are also several ballot initiatives that have already failed during this election cycle:
- Three state-level campaign finance reform ballot proposals
- People for Portland’s ballot measure to redirect funding for homelessness services
- An intiative intended to improve the state ethics commission
- Ten withdrawn petitions on issues ranging from decriminalizing sex work in Oregon to allowing more businesses to sell liquor
Updated July 5 to add Multnomah County charter amendments. Previous versions of this article are available at the Internet Wayback Machine.