The Oregon Supreme Court threw out the ballot title for SJR 48, a measure amending the constitution so the state could incur a greater amount of debt. State Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) challenged the ballot title to SJR 48 in March after legislative leadership wrote a biased and one-sided description for what is supposed to be a neutral explanation of the measure for Oregonians’ voter pamphlets.
“Legislative leadership has gotten into the habit of jerry-rigging ballot titles for whatever fits their political bent,” said Whitsett. “If we expect voters to make informed decisions and to participate with good faith in the political process, we have to present them with honest, accurate information. The ballot titles coming out of the legislature lately have been nothing short of propaganda.”
The court found that the legislatively authored ballot title left out important and pertinent information. Specifically, the ballot title ignores the intention of Oregon’s constitutional authors to protect Oregonians from excessive debt incurred by an imprudent legislature. The debt limitation currently in the Oregon constitution was intended to protect taxpayers from burdensome and excessive taxation. According to Whitsett and the Oregon Supreme Court, the legislative ballot title fails to describe the fact that the measure seeks to supersede the existing constitutional debt limitation.
The Attorney General is now responsible for drafting a compromise ballot title addressing the Oregon Supreme Court’s concerns. The Oregon Supreme Court’s full opinion can be read here: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/S058313.htm. Whitsett paid for the challenge personally.