Oregon man sues over ballot measure

A man fighting to put a measure that would legalize marijuana in Oregon on the ballot has filed a lawsuit, contending the secretary of state unjustly invalidated thousands of voter signatures. He entered the civil litigation after his measure failed to qualify for the ballot.

The man said he submitted petitions bearing 170,000 signatures, more than the approximately 116,000 needed to put the measure on the ballot. The secretary of state's office issued a statement that said it was not prepared to immediately elaborate on the issue, but that many of the signatures deemed invalid were duplicated.

The man said that the secretary of state and the Oregon Elections Division removed signatures for reasons that were not justified and therefore had denied him his right to have an item on the ballot for vote. He wants the state to put his measure on the ballot, but elections officials have stopped processing his petitions.

He also is challenging a fine he received for allegedly violating a state law that pans paying petition gatherers by the signature. He said the penalty is too harsh.

An Oregon attorney with experience in petition drives said election officials have ruled some voters who signed the petition inactive for reasons unknown to him. He also said the secretary of state's office is illegally not allowing the petition drive to continue.

The attorney said the lawsuit is the first in the state that challenges the tough rules the secretary of state placed on petitioners when she took over as secretary of state three years ago. She has said she is not trying to keep measures off the ballot but instead wants to stop pervasive fraud in the system.

Just as the man wants to exercise his right to have the marijuana issue put on the ballot, he is exercising his constitutional right to file suit. If his case gets to court and a judge sides with him, it could change the way state officials handle petition drives.

Source: The Oregonian, "Marijuana petitioner files lawsuit charging Oregon secretary of state improperly invalidated thousands of voter signatures," Jeff Mapes, July 19, 2012

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