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State: County's light-rail ballot statement OK

The Secretary of State’s office dismissed a non-partisan political action committee’s complaint that Clackamas County should not have submitted an explanatory statement for the May 21 light-rail ballot measure with language that a judge had already ruled out.

The Positively Clackamas committee reused Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Deanne L. Darling’s description of the official explanation for Measure 3-424 as “misleading and inaccurate,” saying it gives voters the belief that their vote could have an impact on Clackamas County’s participation in the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project now under construction. County voters previously approved Ballot Measure 3-401 last September to require a vote before the county can commit resources to a rail project.

However, Alana Cox, state elections-law compliance specialist, noted that Judge Darling found that the explanatory statement in question is impartial and complies with applicable law.

“There is no requirement under election law that an explanatory statement be changed to reflect the language in a ballot title, even if the ballot title is successfully challenged,” Cox said. “Not finding a violation of election law, the Elections Division determines this investigation is closed and does not intend to pursue this matter further.”

Oak Grove community leader Eleanore Hunter alleged that Dan Chandler, the county’s strategic policy administrator, and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners drafted and approved an explanatory statement that violated state law . That law says counties “shall submit an impartial, simple and understandable statement explaining the measure and its effect.”

Reached while traveling on the East Coast for comment on the Elections Division decision, Hunter was still disappointed that voters are being provided “such confusing and misleading information.” Even though she considers the vote merely advisory, she hopes that voters will express their support of the light-rail project.

“I urge a ‘yes’ vote for the well being, economic vitality and future vibrancy of the entire county,” she said.