Pubdate: Thu, 06 Sep 2012
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 2012 Statesman Journal
Author: Peter Wong


Oregon voters will still see only one ballot measure Nov. 6 to 
legalize marijuana use by adults.

A Marion County judge, in a decision released Wednesday, denied a 
request by sponsors to place a second marijuana-legalization measure 
on the ballot. Thursday is the deadline to finalize state measures 
for the ballot.

Judge Mary James ruled that sponsors were unlikely to prevail in 
their legal challenge against the state, even if disputed petition 
signatures were restored as valid.

"I think this is a clear validation of our process for verifying 
signatures," Secretary of State Kate Brown said. "The effect is that 
Oregonians can have complete faith in our process."

Brown had already determined that the initiative fell short of the 
necessary signatures. Her staff showed that some of the submitted 
signatures were duplicates and forgeries.

But the measure's sponsors, Bob Wolfe of Portland and Citizens for 
Sensible Law Enforcement, had argued that state elections officials 
tossed out too many signatures without sufficient justification. 
Without authority under rules, Wolfe said, the court should order 
Brown to accept all the signatures as valid.

James heard lawyers for both sides Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court.

In her decision, she wrote that a 2004 Oregon Supreme Court opinion 
does not require the secretary of state to write down every step in 
verifying voter signatures. But she said there are rules.

"The state has a strong interest in ensuring the accuracy and 
legitimacy of each signature, to avoid fraud and mistake, and to 
ensure that only ballot measures that actually have sufficient 
signatures of 'qualified voters' reach the ballot," James wrote.

"Plaintiffs' claim that the secretary lacks the authority to discard 
signatures that do not match the voter record fails as a matter of law."

The failed measure would have amended the Oregon Constitution to 
legalize marijuana use by adults and allow lawmakers to regulate it 
in connection with children and public safety. It was silent on 
whether the state could tax it.

Sponsors spent $449,640 in their signature-gathering attempts, 
according to documents filed in July with the state Elections 
Division. About 85 percent came from Citizens for Sensible Law 
Enforcement, which is largely bankrolled by the Foundation for 
Constitutional Protection in Austin, Tex.

A legalization proposal with different sponsors qualified as Measure 
80 on the Nov. 6 ballot. That measure would authorize the state to 
regulate cultivation and tax the drug. Similar proposals are on the 
ballot in Washington and Colorado.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom