There is more hope for preserving the initiative system in Oregon. By Tyler Smith.
A group of Oregon Chief Petitioners and supporters of the initiative system recently filed a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a new law. The group of Chief Petitioners and other activists filed the lawsuit against the Bill Bradbury the Oregon Secretary of State. Tyler Smith, the attorney defending the initiative system, asked Marion County Circuit Court judge Dennis Graves for an injunction to stop the law before the January 1 date that it was set to go into effect. The judge has not made a decision on that request, but the supporters are hopeful that the injunction will be granted.
For those that are not aware, HB 2082 contains a number of initiative petitioning restrictions that make it more expensive and more labor intensive to circulate initiative petitions. The new law requires state-created training before paid petition circulators can obtain signatures. The law requires registration with the state prior to gathering signatures. The law requires chief petitioners to take on liability for the actions of other circulators. The new law makes numerous legal distinctions between paid and unpaid petition circulators and imposes many additional regulations upon initiatives that use paid circulators. The new law also drastically increases the frequency of contribution and expense reporting for initiative petitioners.
Laws that regulate speech based on their content are generally unconstitutional because the state must justify that type of law with a compelling government interest. The Secretary of State and the legislature did not have a compelling government interest in regulating initiative petitioning that would justify this law. In addition, courts have already ruled many times that initiative petition circulation is core political speech so this constitutional protection should protect our initiative rights. For those reasons the Plaintiffs believe this case has a great chance of winning and stopping this new law from going into effect. It is generally wrong for the government to create this type of disfavored classification or category of speech. The Oregon Constitution has traditionally protected speech and expression more that even the U.S. Constitution. We are hopeful that Judge Graves follows that precedent and protects the initiative petition process here.
We expect to hear back from Judge Graves on the injunction request any day now.