Four measures deserve to pass


The following four November ballot measures referred to voters by the Oregon Legislature range from the monumental - imprisoning drug dealers and repeat property-crime offenders - to the mundane.

But they all share one thing: Voters should approve them all on Nov. 4.

Measure 54 - Let 18-year-olds vote (again):

This measure cleans up the Oregon Constitution to make it consistent with federal law and also with current practices in Oregon. The state Constitution contains an archaic requirement that, in order to participate in school district elections, a voter must be 21 years of age, have lived in the school district for six months and passed a literacy test.

These requirements cannot be enforced since the federal voting age was dropped to 18 years of age nearly four decades ago.

While this measure has no practical effect other than to keep the state Constitution current, voters should approve it.

Measure 55 - Keep your legislator, for now:

This measure also is a technical change in state law. While its adoption will have some effect on legislative representation, we think the overall result will be positive.

Every 10 years, the federal census counts the number of people residing in each state. Following the 2010 census, state legislative boundaries must be redrawn to adjust to population changes.

However, in Oregon, the timing of that process has meant that some legislators end up being reassigned to new districts in the middle of their terms of office. This measure would make it possible for those affected legislators to serve out their current terms of office and have new boundaries take effect in the next election.

This new system will cause less confusion for the Legislature and the citizens of Oregon.

Measure 56 - A new double-majority law:

This measure is generating heat as anti-tax activists claim the Legislature is trying to undo the will of the people.

The state's double-majority law dates back to the mid-1990s and states that no property tax increase can be enacted without approval by a majority of those voting in an election in which a majority of all registered voters participate. The only exception to the 50 percent turnout rule is in November elections held in even-number years.

We believe this law has given too much power to voters who are registered to vote, but who, for whatever reason, choose not to participate in an election. By not voting at all, they can doom a tax proposal - and that seems undemocratic.

Measure 56 doesn't repeal the double-majority rule. It simply amends the law so that it doesn't apply in May and November elections, and it keeps the double-majority requirement for elections held at other times.

This new provision would be especially helpful if a government is faced with an emergency situation, or if voters like the idea of being able to study tax measures one at a time, rather than being bombarded with numerous measures every two years in November.

Measure 57 - Law, order without bankruptcy:

This measure is the Legislature's answer to Kevin Mannix's crime-fighting Measure 61.

Measure 57 is superior to Mannix's in several respects. It reserves mandatory sentences on property crimes to those who commit repeat offenses. It places greater emphasis on treatment for drug offenders, thereby getting at the root of the theft problem. And it would cost the state at least $1 billion less than Measure 61.

We believe both these measures address the frustration the public feels when it sees criminals, especially identity thieves, victimize people over and over again with impunity. Either measure would put those repeat criminals in jail, but Measure 57 accomplishes this in a more humane, measured and fiscally responsible manner.