This Lane County Commission proposal would allow the Lane County Commission to prevent a citizen-initiated county-level ballot measure from going to the voters if Commissioners deem the measure to not be “of county concern.”
Common Cause Position:
Common Cause opposes this proposal because it circumvents the will of the voters.
Our government must work to represent the voice of the people. Ballot measures give an opportunity for voters to send clear and straightforward messages to lawmakers about the direction they want for their community. Initiatives proposed by Lane County voters through citizen petitions are part of this system of direct democracy. We believe Lane County citizens should have the ultimate right to decide which citizen petitions circulate.
The County Commission proposal not only interferes with direct democracy; it may be illegal. In a recent court ruling, Lane County Judge Charles Carlson states that the Lane County Clerk does not have the authority to preemptively dismiss an initiative in the pre-election stage because it is not ‘of county concern’. This sets strong legal precedent against the ordinance that the Lane County Commission is now currently considering, which if passed, would give Lane County commissioners plenary veto power over initiatives not ‘of county concern’.
This proposalcreates a procedural hurdle to Oregon citizens’ right to the initiative process, which is protected under the state Constitution. Additionally, the ordinance gives commissioners immense discretion in their decision making process to block measures, under the loosely defined criterion ‘of county concern’. This undermines the guarantee of open government inherent in democracy and endangers Lane County citizens’ ability to keep the local officials accountable for their actions.