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503-378-6002 or Kristina.Edmunson@doj.state.or.us
About Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General Hardy Myers and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury are pleased to announce that Oregon's ban on paying per signature for initiative and referendum petition circulation has been upheld. Voters passed the ban as Measure 26, by a two to one margin in the November 2002 general election. United States District Judge Ann Aiken sustained Bradbury's implementation of the measure against attacks brought under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"This decision strongly supports Oregon voters'judgment that we need to restore public confidence in our initiative and referendum system, and protect elections against fraud," said Bradbury.
Attorney General Hardy Myers, whose office successfully defended the measure, said Judge Aiken's ruling "affirmed the common-sense proposition that regulations aimed at reducing petition-circulation fraud are not unconstitutional." Measure 26 and the Secretary of State's rules implementing it are "narrowly tailored to serve the state's important interests in protecting the integrity of the initiative and referendum process," said Myers.
Prior to Measure 26, sponsors of initiative and referendum petitions could pay people hired to circulate those petitions according to the number of signatures the circulators obtained. The measure made it unlawful to pay money or anything of value for signature gathering activities when such payment is based on the number of signatures obtained. The measure does not prohibit paying or receiving payments for signature gathering activities that are not based, directly or indirectly, on the number of signatures obtained. For example, signature gatherers may still be paid by the hour.
The challengers argued that Measure 26 unconstitutionally infringed on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. In rejecting their claims, Judge Aiken relied in part on evidence of fraud committed by circulators paid on a per-signature basis before Measure 26 became law. Judge Aiken cited an affidavit submitted by an investigator in Myers'office who described numerous instances of forged signatures and false certifications submitted by circulators paid on commission. She relied also on an affidavit by John Lindback, Director of Elections for the Secretary of State, who concluded that payment based on the number of signatures obtained had been a substantial contributor to signature fraud.
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