Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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Two groups of petitioners challenged the ballot title that the Oregon Attorney General certified for Initiative Petition 41 (2022) (IP 41). IP 41 would add a new section 16 to Article IX of the Oregon Constitution, which would specify that a “public body may not assess a toll” on any part of an Oregon “highway” unless approved by the voters of nearby counties. After review, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that petitioners identified two ways in which the ballot title failed to substantially comply with the statutory requirements. Accordingly, the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Salsgiver/Iannarone v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Two sets of electors who were dissatisfied with the Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 34 (2022) (IP 34) petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review. IP 34 was directed at changing Oregon’s process for reapportioning legislative and congressional districts after each decennial census. Both petitions argued the ballot title did not substantially comply with the requirements of ORS 250.035. The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some of the arguments raised in the petitions and, therefore, referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Mason/Turrill v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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Relators asked the Oregon Supreme Court for extraordinary relief: an alternative writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to withdraw her orders that disqualified their initiative petitions from appearing on the November 2022 general election ballot, order expedited briefing in this mandamus matter, and issue an expedited decision and a peremptory writ, which would give them the time that they deem necessary to complete the remaining steps to ensure that their petitions are placed the ballot. The Court denied relief, finding "In a circumstance like this, in which petitioners propose a change in Oregon law but their petition is disqualified by the secretary, petitioners’ efforts may be delayed, but they are not foreclosed." View "Oregon ex rel Ofsink v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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Relator was a prospective candidate for Oregon governor. After he filed his declaration of candidacy with the Secretary of State, the secretary asked relator for additional information to substantiate that he will “have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State,” as required to serve as governor by Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution. Relator submitted additional materials in support of his claim that he met the constitutional eligibility requirement. Upon reviewing those materials, the secretary determined that, although relator had previously been a resident of Oregon, he had been a resident of New York since at least 2000 and he had not reestablished Oregon residency by November 2019. The secretary therefore concluded that relator did not meet the constitutional requirement, and informed him his name would not be placed on the ballot in the primary election. The next day, relator filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Oregon Supreme Court, asking the Court to direct the secretary to reverse her determination and to instruct county officials to place relator’s name on the ballot. The issues this case presented for the Supreme Court's review were: (1) the meaning of “resident within this State,” as those words are used in Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution; and (2) whether the secretary was required to conclude that relator met that legal standard. The Court concluded that “resident within,” when viewed against the legal context that surrounded the Oregon Constitution’s 1857 ratification, was best understood to refer to the legal concept of “domicile,” which required “the fact of a fixed habitation or abode in a particular place, and an intention to remain there permanently or indefinitely[.] Under that legal concept, a person can have only a single residence at a time." Further, the Court held the secretary was not required to conclude that relator was domiciled in Oregon between November 2019 and December 2020. Although relator challenged the constitutionality of the durational residency requirement in Article V, section 2, that question was not properly considered through a mandamus proceeding. The Court therefore dismissed the alternative writ and denied relator’s petition. View "Oregon ex rel Kristof v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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The question in this case was whether the Secretary of State was required to count the signatures on an initiative petition of voters whose registration was deemed “inactive.” Plaintiffs were supporters of Initiative Petition 50 (2016) (IP 50) who sought to qualify that initiative for the 2016 ballot. After the secretary subtracted the signatures of voters with inactive registration, the petition did not have enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. Plaintiffs brought this action challenging the secretary’s exclusion of those signatures. Plaintiffs argued that voters with inactive registration could sign initiative petitions because, even if their registration was inactive, they were still registered, and therefore remain “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. The secretary responded that those voters could not sign initiative petitions because voters with inactive registration were not “registered * * * in the manner provided by law,” and they therefore were not “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded, like the secretary, that because voters whose registrations were inactive were not eligible to vote, they were not “qualified voters” within the meaning of Article IV, section 1. Accordingly, the Court held that their signatures on initiative petitions could not be counted, and that the secretary properly excluded them when determining the number of signatures submitted in support of IP 50. View "Whitehead v. Fagan" on Justia Law

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On September 27, 2021, in accordance with the timeline that the Oregon Supreme Court ordered in Oregon ex rel Kotek v. Fagan, 484 P3d 1058 (2021), the Oregon Legislative Assembly enacted, and the Governor signed, a reapportionment of Oregon’s legislative districts, based on the federal decennial census data that was released by the United States Census Bureau in August 2021. Senate Bill (SB) 882 (Spec Sess 2021), codified as Or Laws 2021, ch 2. Two sets of petitioners, all of whom were Oregon electors, sought review of that reapportionment. Petitioners in Sheehan v. Legislative Assembly (S068991) challenged SB 882 in its entirety on the ground that it was the product of an improper and partisan process, and they presented a different reapportionment plan that they asked the Supreme Court to direct the Secretary of State to adopt in place of SB 882. Petitioners in Calderwood v. Legislative Assembly (S068989) brought a narrower challenge and asked the Supreme Court to void only the sections of SB 882 that apportioned House Districts 8 and 12, arguing that the Legislative Assembly drew those districts for an unlawful partisan purpose and without considering the redistricting criteria set out in ORS 188.010(1). The Supreme Court concluded: (1) the Sheehan petitioners did not demonstrate SB 882 violated applicable law in any of the ways they have asserted; and (2) the Calderwood petitioners failed to demonstrate that the parts of SB 882 that defined House Districts 8 and 12 did not comply with applicable law in any of the ways they have asserted. Both petitions were dismissed. View "Sheehan/Calderwood v. Legislative Assembly" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in this case had submitted Initiative Petition 2016-005 (IP 5) to the Oregon Secretary of State so that it could be certified in time for the 2016 ballot. Section (1) of IP 5 provided that the people “call for an Article V Convention by enacting into law this Application, in accordance with Article V of the U.S. Constitution,” for purposes of considering whether to amend the United States Constitution to allow greater regulation of corporations and other artificial legal entities and greater regulation of money used for political purposes. Section (2) added that the call for such a convention was continuing and did not terminate by the passage of time. Section (3) provided for copies of the call to be sent to various persons. And section (4) stated that the call “shall be codified in Title 17 of Oregon Revised Statutes.” In this case, the Secretary refused to certify IP 5 on the ground that it failed to meet the procedural requirements established by the Oregon Constitution. Specifically, the Secretary explained that she “ha[d] been advised that a court review of [IP 5] would probably determine that it does not propose a law within the meaning of Article IV, section 1 of the Oregon Constitution and therefore may not legally be adopted through the initiative process.” Plaintiffs then filed this action in circuit court. Among other things, they sought a declaratory judgment that the Secretary was required to certify IP 5. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Oregon voters who adopted the initiative power did not intend that power to extend beyond state lawmaking, and that Article IV, section 1(2)(a) did not authorize the people to directly apply for a federal constitutional convention. View "Harisay v. Clarno" on Justia Law

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By Legislative Referendum (LR) 401 (2020), the Oregon legislature asked voters to approve or reject a constitutional amendment that would permit the legislature, local governments, and the people through the initiative process to pass laws regulating campaign finance and advertising. As provided in Oregon Laws 2019, chapter 674, section 1, a joint legislative committee drafted the ballot title and explanatory statement for LR 401. In consolidated cases, petitioners sought review of the ballot title and the explanatory statement. Petitioner Markley challenged all parts of the ballot title, contending that the caption, “yes” and “no” result statements, and the summary did not comply with the requirements set out in ORS 250.035(2). Petitioner Buel challenged the ballot title summary and the explanatory statement. After the parties completed briefing on petitioners’ challenges, this court decided Multnomah County v. Mehrwein, 366 Or 295, 462 P3d 706 (2020), in which the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that a Multnomah County ordinance limiting campaign contributions was not subject to a facial challenge under Article I, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution. That decision overruled, in part, the court’s earlier decision in Vannatta v. Keisling, 931 P2d 770 (1997), which held that certain statutes that provided for, among other things, mandatory limits on contributions to state political campaigns, violated Article I, section 8. Because the ballot title “no” result statement and summary and the explanatory statement all briefly described the state of the law before the court’s issuance of the Mehrwein decision, the Court asked the parties to submit supplemental briefing concerning the effect, if any, that Mehrwein had on this matter. After review of the supplemental briefs of the parties, the Supreme Court concluded the the ballot title’s “no” result statement and summary and the explanatory statement had to be modified. The Court otherwise rejected petitioners’ arguments. The ballot title was referred back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Buel/Markley v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law

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In the November 2016 election, Multnomah County voters approved Measure 26-184, an amendment to the Multnomah County Home Rule Charter containing campaign finance provisions. Multnomah County then adopted new ordinances, Multnomah County Code (MCC) sections 5.200-203, mirroring and implementing those charter provisions. At issue before the Oregon Supreme Court was the validity of those ordinances under the free speech provisions of both the Oregon and United States Constitutions - Article I, section 8, and the First Amendment. The Court reached four conclusions: (1) the county’s contribution limits did not, on their face, violate Article I, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution; (2) the case had to be remanded for factual findings and to consider, in the first instance, whether the contribution limits violated the First Amendment; (3) the county’s expenditure limits were invalid under both constitutional provisions; and (4) the parties’ dispute with respect to the disclosure provisions was moot. View "Multnomah County v. Mehrwein" on Justia Law

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In consolidated ballot title review cases, petitioner Hurst and petitioners Van Dusen and Steele challenged the Oregon Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 50 (2020) (IP 50). If adopted, IP 50 would amend ORS 468A.205, which set aspirational greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, including the goal of achieving greenhouse gas levels that were at least 75% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. ORS 468A.205(1)(c). The current statute also expressly provided that it did not create any additional regulatory authority for any agency of the executive department. IP 50 would amend ORS 468A.205 to mandate staged reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel and industrial sources (including achieving greenhouse gas emissions levels that are “at least 100 percent below 1990 levels” by 2050); to require the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to adopt rules to ensure compliance with the new greenhouse gas emissions limits; and to require the Department of Environmental Quality to enforce the rules that the EQC adopts. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that certain of petitioner Hurst’s arguments that the ballot title did not substantially comply with ORS 250.035(2) were well taken, and thus the Court referred the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification. View "Hurst/Van Dusen v. Rosenblum" on Justia Law