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Commentary: A ballot overview

Published on August 26, 2014 12:57PM

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We were just getting used to our street corners being free of political signs, but don’t expect the green grass and clear sightlines to last long. The November general election is right around the corner and the reappearance of red, white and blue yards is even closer.

This fall Oregonians will be voting on an array of interesting races and measures, some with far-reaching implications for our lives.

Here, we offer a basic introduction to some of the seven measures that qualified for the ballot.

Measure 88 — Driver’s cards

Would uphold senate bill that allows driver’s licenses for people who cannot prove legal residence

Known as the driver’s card measure, this controversial issue has already been one of the most discussed of the political season.

But the first thing we have to make clear is what a yes or no vote means, because it could seem counterintuitive. If you vote YES on this measure, you are voting in favor of driver’s cards – not in favor of a referendum. If you vote NO you are voting against driver’s licenses.

Opponents of the measure, which include some law enforcement groups, say it rewards illegal behavior and would spur others to enter this country illegally. They argue it would attract others already in this country illegally to move to Oregon. They also say it would not increase the number of insured drivers.

Proponents of the measure, which include many unions, immigrant rights and business organizations, say it would increase the number of insured drivers, as well as require more people to pass driving and knowledge tests, thereby improving the safety of our roads. They also note it would keep immigrant families together and reduce the fear that a speeding ticket or road violation could get them deported.

Polls say: Two nationwide polls in 2013 found that nearly two of every three Americans would be against driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants in their state. No scientific polls have yet been conducted in Oregon itself. The money raised is relatively small and relatively equal, with both for and against having less than $50,000 in their coffers. Drivers cards supporters, with a stronger grass roots campaign network, will have to energize their voters in order to pass this measure.

Measure 91 — Legalize marijuana

Would legalize recreational marijuana and task the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with regulating its sale

This is one of the more easily understood measures on the ballot. Well-publicized forays have been undertaken in Washington and Colorado, with some hiccups but mostly smooth sailing. This measure would use an existing bureaucracy – the OLCC – to oversee marijuana retail stores.

Proponents say this is a simpler, more economical measure than those floated in years past – measures that failed by close margins. They say it would funnel money away from drug cartels, eliminate racially unequal marijuana arrests, reduce costs to private citizens and an overworked court system while raising money for the state through high taxes. They also say it increases freedom of choice.

Opponents say marijuana can have debilitating effects on many people, especially on developing brains. They argue marijuana is unhealthy and addicting. They claim it will increase costs in the rehabilitation and lead to heavier use of hard drugs. They also believe it will increase the number of drivers under the influence and lead to increased accidents, as well as an overarching loss of traditional values.

Polls say: Americans’ attitude toward marijuana is changing rapidly and the relative success of the marijuana roll-out in two states similar to Oregon put this measure in a good position to pass. A June poll by Survey USA found 51 percent or Oregonians in favor and 41 percent opposed, with a margin of error of roughly 4 percent. Nearly $1.5 million has been raised in favor of the legalized marijuana, with little in opposition.

Measure 92 — GMO labeling

Would mandate labeling of certain foods that contain genetically modified organisms

A yes vote would require the labeling of raw and packaged goods produced with genetically engineered materials. A no vote would simply retain current law.

The measure would require retailers of raw food to include a “genetically engineered” label. It also would require manufacturers of most packaged food to label it “produced with genetic engineering.” It would not apply to food served in restaurants.

Proponents say the rule will help make Oregon consumers better informed, at little cost to farmers and producers. They say clearly labeled GMO goods will become more important going forward, as long term health effects from these materials continue to be studied.

Opponents say it will be quite costly, another level of paperwork and bureaucracy, and that there have been no known studies that show GMO materials have any negative health effects. They say that makes it unnecessary and unhelpful for consumers, who may incorrectly assume the label means something it doesn’t.

Polls say: No good Oregon-centric polls have been completed yet on the matter, but GMOs are another issue in which American opinions seem to be changing rather quickly. Similar labeling measures have gone before Oregon voters before, but have been defeated. Very similar ballot measures were denied in California and Washington recently. Yet, just this May, Jackson County voters in Southern Oregon handily defeated deep-pocketed opponents when banning all genetically modified crops from the county. Millions will be pitted against millions in this fight, as large ag companies will spend to defeat the measure, while organic food companies and groceries will support it. Should come down to the wire.

The others:

Measure 86 — Amends the Oregon Constitution so a fund can be created for post-secondary education.

Measure 87 — Allows school employees to serve in the legislature and allows judges to be hired by the National Guard and public universities.

Measure 89 — Amends the state constitution to guarantee equal rights regardless of sex.

Measure 90 — Creates an open, top-two primary election system.


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