The Oregon Department of Justice has closed a criminal investigation into two petitioners who were accused of giving false information to persuade voters to sign a petition to repeal the state sanctuary law.
The complaint has been referred back to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division.
“In sum, our investigation did not reveal sufficient evidence that either circulator violated (Oregon Revised Statute) 260.555, which prohibits, among other things, making a false statement regarding the contents, meaning or effect of a petition,” wrote DOJ chief criminal counsel Michael J. Slauson in an Aug. 29 letter to Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout.
Initiative Petition 22 has since qualified for the ballot as Measure 104, Stop Oregon Sanctuaries.
The measure would repeal the more than 30-year law that prohibits use of state and local resources to enforce federal immigration law, when a person’s only crime is being in the country illegally.
Robin Fisher, a sociology student at Portland State University, filed a written elections complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office early this year against Nikki Condon and Shilo Gest-Vigil, who were circulating Initiative Petition 22 on the PSU campus.
Condon was being paid by Bend-based Ballot Access LLC to gather signatures; Gest-Vigil was unpaid, said Lee Vasche, the firm’s owner.
Fisher claimed the two petitioners misled her about the purpose of IP 22. She submitted with her complaint a link to video — which she posted on YouTube — showing footage of the exchange, but she failed to inform Condon that the conversation was being recorded as required by state law, Slauson wrote. As a result, the footage could not be used as evidence.
The Secretary of State’s Office reported that it had received 39 complaints from individuals asking that their signatures be removed from the petition.
The Elections Division is now investigating Fisher’s allegation as a civil elections complaint, said Debra Royal, the secretary of state’s chief of staff.
To prove a criminal misdeed, DOJ would have had to prove that circulator made a specific factually false statement, which he knew was false at the time he made it, Slauson wrote.
The outcome “is exactly what I expected,” Vasche said in a phone interview with the Pamplin/EO Capital Bureau.
Condon made an unintentional mistake, Vasche said.
“He didn’t talk as clearly as he should about the measure,” he said. Condon and other circulators were subsequently given additional training about how to present the measure accurately, he said.
About 300 law enforcement, business and civil rights groups have mounted an opposition movement against Measure 105 called Oregonians United Against Profiling.
“It’s unfortunate that Oregonians’ basic rights are under attack due to Measure 105, which is an attempt to throw out Oregon’s law that has addressed unfair racial profiling for over 30 years,” said Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa, a statewide immigrant rights organization.
The DOJ last month also opened a criminal investigation into Ballot Access’s signature gathering practices when the firm circulated Initiative Petition 31, now Measure 104 — a tax measure that would require a three-fifths vote of both chambers of the state Legislature for an increase in state revenue. Accusations include that the firm paid circulators below minimum wage, improperly attested signature sheets and allowed at least one employee to circulate a petition without being properly registered.
Vasche claimed the complaints are politically motivated.