Attorney frustrated with ballot measure language

A Wilsonville attorney has settled an election lawsuit with the Clackamas County Clerk’s Office regarding how ballot measures are placed in the Voter’s Pamphlet.

Ginger Fitch filed the lawsuit on her own behalf as a county voter after frustration with the county clerk’s office last fall that the full language of a ballot measure was not included in the Voters' Pamphlet, nor was it required to be in there by law.

Fitch also claimed that the laws are different for state and county elections and that the county did not require printing the full measure.

After negotiations, said Fitch, the county and state agreed to begin providing the full text of measures put to a vote by including in the Clackamas County Voters' Pamphlet a Web address where voters would find the full text. Voters also can request to receive the full text of the measure from the clerk’s office by mail.

“The Request for Declaratory Judgment revealed an inconsistent practice among counties in providing the full statement of local measures,” Fitch said.

In an affidavit filed last September, Fitch complained that she had received an opposition mailing regarding Measure 3-401, which sought approval for new light rail in Clackamas County. The mailing stated that the measure was poorly written and “goes beyond what the sponsors intended to do.”

However, when Fitch investigated the Voters' Pamphlet to verify what the mailing stated, she found that it did not include the language of the measure. She contacted the county clerk’s office, and was told that because the measure went over the word limit for explanatory statements, it was not included in the pamphlet. They directed her toward those who proposed the measure to get the full language.

After that November 2011 election, in which Fitch did not see the full language of the measure on the ballot, she contacted the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, which responded that “nothing in election law requires the text of a measure” to be included in the Voters' Pamphlet.

In her lawsuit, Fitch asked the court to “declare the right of Clackamas County voters to receive a voter’s pamphlet that includes any measure put to a vote” and to enforce her right to a free and equal election under the Oregon Constitution.

“County Clerk Sherry Hall had refused to include the full text of measures over multiple county elections despite the issue being brought to her attention,” Fitch said. “In the past, she had argued that the summaries of the measures were sufficient and providing the full text of measures would require additional paper and printing costs.”

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