Another Voice

New evidence confirms what we have believed all along about the need to do away with the "double majority" rule for votes on money measures.

The rule, tucked into a measure passed by voters in 1996, puts a double burden on supporters of proposed property tax measures.

Not only do supporters have to persuade a majority to vote for the tax, they must also get a majority of the registered voters to cast their ballots. That gives a huge - and unfair - advantage to the anti-tax folks and way too much power to those who don't vote at all.

The new study by the League of Oregon Cities confirms that is actually happening.

It shows that 122 of 936 property tax measures proposed in the past seven years failed not because a majority of voters cast ballots against them, but because not enough people voted.

In each of those cases, the majority who voted supported the measures. It was the nonvoters who killed them. In two-thirds of the votes, 40 percent cast ballots. On a third of the issues, the measures passed after a second try.

People who don't care enough or know enough to take part in a vote should not have the power to overrule those who do. They don't deserve that kind of influence and it sends the wrong message about the importance of voting.

The anti-tax folks try to argue it is the responsibility of tax proponents to make sure 50 percent of the voters turn in their ballots. That's ridiculous. It is their job to win support for the measure - not to hold the hands of people who can't otherwise be counted on.

Property tax measures, by their very nature, are rarely popular, but all ballot measures deserve better than a stacked deck.

The League of Oregon Cities' executive director, Ken Strobeck, noted that until now there has been little quantitative basis for a challenge to the law, either in court or the Legislature.

"Now that the information is all together for the first time, it might prompt somebody to act," Strobeck said.

We're on record urging the Oregon Legislature to make elimination of the "double majority" provision one of its first orders of business when it convenes again in 2005.

The new study only strengthens our determination to see that happen.

- From the East Oregonian

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