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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 29, 2007 11:13 AM. The previous post in this blog was Have a great weekend. The next post in this blog is Would you believe?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Postponed

A federal judge's ruling suspending Oregon's domestic partnership law, which was supposed to take effect this coming Tuesday, is a bitter disappointment to so many people. Thank goodness, it is only a temporary setback. Even if the folks seeking to overturn the law get the matter on the ballot, Oregonians will vote to support it. And so by this time next year, if not sooner, there will be domestic partnerships in this state, as there should be.

That's cold comfort today, of course.

One maddening question that bothered me when I first heard about the judge's injunction yesterday -- it must have been an oral ruling, as I don't see links to a written opinion anywhere -- was how he could forbid implementation of a state law that had been duly enacted, just because of some hassle over signatures on petitions seeking to repeal that law. Upon further reflection, I see how the judge could reach that conclusion. Under Oregon law, if I'm getting this right, when enough signatures are turned in to challenge a new statute by referendum, the law is automatically suspended until the ballot measure is voted on. (That is, unless the legislature had declared an emergency, which it apparently did not do in this case.) And so if the opponents' signatures are good, which they claim they are, there will be no domestic partnerships until after the November election, anyway.

Seen in this light, the judge's action yesterday is at least slightly less outrageous than it first sounded. But it's still a shock. And of course, highly ironic coming from a Bush appointee, what with the administration's supposed deep respect for the sanctity of the actions of state elections officers.

The other thing I'll say is how once again, the electoral process in this country is showing itself to be badly, badly deficient. Not only can't we count votes securely and honestly -- we can't even agree on how to check the signatures on the petitions by which we decide what we'll be voting on. Nearly every election -- even every potential election -- turns out to be a lawsuit. It's a disgrace.

Comments (23)

The Secretary of State doesn't count every signature on the petitions. Instead, they use "statistical sampling" and then a mathematical formula to extrapolate the outcome.

Then, no matter how close the extrapolated tally (96 votes, in this case), there is no mechanism to require an actual hand count.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Kind of like Florida, without actually counting the votes even once.

I don't think any administration should have respect for state officials who are violating the constitutional rights of their state's citizens. I'm sorry to hear you believe it's ok, as long as the ends are ones with which you agree.

"Oregonians will vote to support it"

on what do you base this conclusion? given a second chance to reject "gay marriage" I expect the outcome to be the same.

And you are wrong, my bigoted friend.

As you brought up Jack, this really exposes the issue (finally) of signature counting/verifying and some possible major flaws in the process. (Not to mention all the shady stuff that happens when gathering signatures.)

There has to be a better way...but what would it be?

By the way, I love your new header picture!

but what would it be?

It would probably have something to do with that crazy thing that the kids are talking about... something called a "computer."

something called a "computer."

Doesn't that seem a little ironic, considering that computerized voting machines turn out to be one thing that just doesn't work? And boy, I knew I didn't like initiatives, and now it seems that referenda really suck, too.

Thank you, Jack. It is a bitter disappointment, especially since during the whole Measure 36 campaign we were told to go get civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not marriage. And that's what we've done, but now we're told again, no. It is cold comfort, to wait, yet more. And you're right, it will all work out. But I think about what could be done with all of that money and energy and hours that we'll spend to get there, and how many couples will be faced with the inequities that become painfully apparent in times of life and death, and it's just darn hard to be patient.

I hear you.

I've got a hunch that they don't have the signatures, and this will be over by spring break. But if they get their election, it will be over 30 days thereafter.

computerized voting machines turn out to be one thing that just doesn't work?

It would if somebody good were put in charge of designing it.

Let's hope the the voting public finally understands what the folks who oppose this law are about.

Even if the folks seeking to overturn the law get the matter on the ballot, Oregonians will vote to support it.

Maybe they will; maybe they won't. The main problem here is that they weren't given the opportunity to vote. I suspect that's what really ticks folks off. It's sort of like the Tram and light rail. You never got to vote on the Tram, and way back when you were allowed to vote on light rail, it was passed once, then extensions were rejected twice.

Of course, Those Who Know Best found ways to circumvent the expressed will of the voters, and so keep building rail.

The domestic partnership thing was, I think, viewed by many as yet another arrogant move by government. The perception may not be accurrate in this case, as although voters rejected marriage, they did leave the option of domestic partnership open.

At the same time, given the history of past governmental actions, it's easy enough to see why some may view this as yet another attempt to do an "end run" around the voters.

It's time to face facts: government in Oregon has a long track record of doing what voters have specifically told them that we don't want them to do. As a result, there's a complete lack of trust in Oregon government. And that lack of trust has been earned.

At this point, anything they do will be justifiably viewed with suspicion.

It's all about the word "marriage," dude. And that is not what this is. If it makes it to a vote, domestic partnerships will pass, just like Measure 49 did. But hey, God's People can waste their time if they like. It's good that they're keeping busy.

Jack,

Is it bigoted to point out that statistical sampling was the method used to determine the petitioners fell short by 116 signatures out of 63,000 submitted?

There is no "recount" available under Oregon Statutes despite the fact the "sampling" margin of error is much higher than 116/63,000.

Why? Because many signatures are disqualified simply because the signature card on file at the elections office (some of which were signed decades ago) don't match the signature on the petition.

My signature has evolved over the last 20 years (as evidenced by the fact my ballot was rejected for the most recent mail-in election). That evolution is more pronounced when I'm standing up outside a grocery store with a bag full of groceries in my left hand while the signature gatherer holds the petition and I sign with my right hand.

The Secretary of State's office has broad discretion in deciding upon how to use statistical sampling. They used this discretion to keep this petition off the ballot because they fear the outcome would mirror M36.

AHH come one Jack, The real story is not this one, the "o" and you have been skunked...AGAIN!

The main problem here is that they weren't given the opportunity to vote.

I just don't get it. Why do people think they want to vote on everything? I thought our government was through elected representatives. On the surface, the objection seems disingenuous: It's not that they didn't get to vote, but rather that they don't like the outcome. (I'm not addressing the narrower issue of government ignoring a specific initiative or referendum result. That doesn't seem right either. As long as we have these awkward plebiscites they should be respected.)

The law allows certain ways to attest to your signature if there are questions. In a normal election, they are required to contact you if your signature is rejected. Here, they not only failed to contact anyone, but they didn't even allow the exact same evidence to be presented that they would accept in a normal election. The courts will decide if they were right to apply one standard in an election and a different one in a petition. That's the essence of this case: was the state wrong to apply a different standard.

An further, you must admit that it is troubling that if people presented the same evidence for a petition signature that would have been accepted for a ballot signature then if the county clerks rejected it while they still had a couple weeks left before their final numbers had to be in, then why? Anyway, it all comes down to standards, and the question that will be answered is: "Are there laws that block counties from using the same signature verification process?" If not, the next question is, "Should the counties have applied the same standard or are they within their rights not to?" And lastly, "If they are within their rights not to but the people came to them (eliminating the counties from even having to call) why would they, servants of the people, refuse to correct a correctible error?" It's one thing to say, "We don't have to call" on a petition signature rejection, but entirely another to say that when a person shows up on their own you can turn them away when they've got the same proof that works for a ballot signature proof! The courts, I hope, will take this up and decide it.

It's called all men are created equal, dude.

why does government spend so much time, money and effort attempting to oversee, define and control marriage, I wonder?

I am not a supporter of gay rights, but I do not understand the logic behind this effort to force a vote on the issue. If by chance the vote actually ends up recinding the domestic partnership law, then gay rights groups would most likely revert back to efforts to somehow nulify Measure 36 and work again for gay marriage. By leaving civil unions in place, over time the concept becomes more concrete and more difficult to ratch up to actual equality in marriage. The end effect would be that hetros marry and homos have civil unions (or whatever they may be called). If such a system was left in place for say 20-30 years, it would be VERY difficult to pass gay marriage laws - the mantra will be: the system works, why change it?

As to ecohuman's comments on government intrusion into our lives - I am the executor of the estate of a relative, and it is amazing all of the government agencies that must be dealt with to settle the estate and file all of the paperwork required to "unwind" the government's involvement in every aspect of a person's life (and death).

I just don't get it. Why do people think they want to vote on everything? I thought our government was through elected representatives.

Nope. In Oregon, we have this thing known as the initiative process. It's like we have a comination of representative government and direct democracy. I believe that there is a trend toward direct democracy in the state - purely because our elected officials choose to do stuff that people don't like.

Personally, I have no beef with the domestic partnership arrangement. But the fact of the matter is that Oregon politicians have such an egregious history of telling voters to screw off that I think it has now become almost a knee-jerk reaction to take a second look at whatever junk they're pushing.

You made it clear that you didn't want more light rail. They stopped asking your opinion, and built it out anyway. I think a lot of people see the incredible waste of funds toward fixed-rail, trams, "couplets", reservoir covers, Homer Williams, secret meetings, an estimated 180,000 drivers' licenses handed over to illegal aliens, and yadda yadda...and I think that all of that stuff combined tells people that their elected representatives don't give a rat's heinie.

That doesn't inspire trust, which leads to a strong desire for oversight in the form of direct democracy.

And you are wrong, my bigoted friend.

?

You know, just to back this way the heck up, I am not sure the Federal Court even has the standing to be interfering in matters of states rules around referendum initiatives. The Right has come a long way since the 60s when all they could spout was state's rights. Now the feds seem to forget that the USA is a Republic and not a Federal Govt dominates all political body.


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