Ballot Proposal on Immigrant Driver’s Licenses Rejected by Oregon’s Secretary of State

On October 22, Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno shut down a ballot proposal to repeal HB 2015, the Equal Access to Roads Act  

Aimed at undocumented immigrants, the act removes the need for an individual to show proof of legal presence in order to acquire an Oregon driver’s license. The bill’s passage this year has proved contentious, as voters struck down a similar measure in 2014. 

According to Clarno, Initiative Petition 43 does not meet constitutional standards, as neither the “full text of the proposed law” nor “the specific language” for the desired change is provided in the proposal. The Oregon Department of Justice had a similar appraisal of IP 43’s language, deeming the effect of its passage “unclear.” 

Petitioner Mark Callahan, one of the chief petitioners of IP 43, is reported by OPB to have disputed Clarno’s ruling in an email. Callahan argued that he is not proposing a new law, but calling for the removal of one, writing “How can we submit the full text of a law that we are NOT ‘proposing’? It does not make any sense. If we are NOT ‘proposing’ a law, there is not full text of a law to submit.” 

Clarno said in statement that she hopes “that the proponents of this ballot measure will take my ruling as an opportunity to improve their proposal,” and that she “will always support the presentation of ballot measures that meet constitutional requirements.” 

The secretary of state’s ruling bears resemblance to those she made on Initiative Petitions 35, 36 and 37 in September, which sought to strengthen forestry laws. The proposals were rejected on the grounds that Oregon law requires a ballot to address a single issue, and “When you have things with all sorts of things to do with a forest – setbacks and sprays and rivers – that’s more than one subject.” Her decision lead to accusations of partisanship from environmentalist groups.   

Clarno, a Republican, addressed those concerns in a release about IP 43, saying, ““The initiative petition process is very important in giving Oregonians an opportunity to directly participate in our government. It is my sincere hope that the proponents of this ballot measure will take my ruling as an opportunity to improve their proposal. I will always support the presentation of ballot measures that meet constitutional requirements.”  

By Brandon Urey