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Oregon Supreme Court Rules Top-Two Ballot Measure Title Needs Changes

Oregon supporters of a top-two system plan to circulate an initiative petition this year. Before their petition can begin to circulate, its description on the petition and on the ballot must be settled. On May 8, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the description of the measure must be altered somewhat. Here is the 13-page decision in Dixon v Rosenblum, S062046.

The wording that was before the Court for review is: “Changes general election nominating process: provides one common primary ballot; unlimited votes; top two advance.” This part is termed the “caption.”

Then, beneath that, “Result of ‘Yes’ Vote: ‘Yes’ vote replaces current general election nomination process for most partisan offices; all candidates listed on common primary ballot; vote one or more; two advance.”

Below that, “Result of ‘No’ Vote: ‘No’ vote retains current general election nomination processes: party primaries for major parties; no common primary ballot; vote limitations; multiple candidates on general election ballot.”

And, finally, “Summary: Currently, voters are limited to voting for one candidate for each office in primary elections; multiple candidates may appear for each office on general election ballot. Major parties nominate candidates through party primaries with separate ballots for each. Measure replaces that system for most partisan offices, including many federal (not presidential), all state, county, city, district partisan offices, Primary ballot will list all candidates for each office. Voters may vote for as many candidates as they like for each office, regardless of party affiliation of voter/candidate. Only top two candidates will appear on general election ballot; may be from same party. Primary, general election ballots must contain candidates’ party registration/endorsements. Eligible person, regardless of party, may be selected to fill vacancy. Other provisions.”

The Oregon Supreme Court ordered three changes to this wording: (1)The caption’s reference to “unlimited votes” must be changed; (2) the caption must make clear that the measure has no effect on non-partisan offices; (3) within “result of ‘no’ vote” section, the reference to “vote limitations” must be changed. The Attorney General will now proceed to alter the parts that the Court ruled need changing. Then, the measure may begin to circulate. It needs 87,213 valid signatures. The sponsors are believed to have enough funds to hire paid circulators to obtain the signatures.

5 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    1. The ballot question analysis stuff — One more thing to abolish.

    The ballot question obviously is —
    Shall proposal ABC123 be enacted – YES or NO.

    NOT any propaganda about what the proposal contains or does not contain.

    i.e. VOTE NO if there is no plain English in any proposal.

    2. NO primaries are needed.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  2. Sam

    Multiple votes in a blanket Top-Two primary?

    So, in other words, if one major party holds a decent majority, it can nominate two candidates, urge its members to vote for both, and totally lock the other major party out of the general election.

    Brilliant!

    • Tom Yager

      Exactly, Sam! Unfortunately, for many Top Two supporters, having both candidates from the same party is a feature rather than a bug. They perceive it as a way to elect more moderatea.

    • Jim Riley

      So if you are Pete Stark, you make sure that there are only two Democrats to vote for in November, and Republicans will vote for whom?

      Remember that in Washington the labor unions and trial lawyers set up a phony campaign for the Republican that the incumbent Democrat was not a moderate, but was a doctrinaire liberal. The intent was to boost the Republican into 2nd place, and knock the incumbent out.

  3. Jim Riley

    State law requires that ballots contain guidance for voters such as “Vote for One”. This is a limitation.

    If a voter exceeds the limit, the vote will be discarded. If Oregon used voting machines, the voting machines would be programmed to prevent a voter from exceeding the limit.

    Instead of “vote limitations” – “vote for only one” would be correct.

    And instead of “unlimited votes” – “vote for any or all”.

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