Proposed Redistricting Ballot Measure Gets Signature Gathering Relief from Court

A federal district court issued a preliminary order granting People Not Politicians deadline and burden relief to qualify its redistricting reform initiative for the November 2020 election.  The group cited the pandemic shutdown as undue burden in their signature gathering effort. 

If the initiative makes the ballot, voters will decide if an independent commission will be appointed to decide Oregon’s political districts. Currently, the state legislature decide how that map looks. 

The judge’s order allows the Secretary of State to decide by 5:00pm Monday, July 13, 2020 to either accept People Not Politician’s signatures as submitted, or accept a reduced number of signatures to 58,789 and allow additional time to gather until August 17, 2020.  

Judge Michael J. McShane in People Not Politicians v. Secretary of State Clarno ruled in favor of People Not Politicians which executed a no-contact statewide signature gathering campaign in order to qualify Initiative Petition 57 (IP 57) for the November 2020 ballot while observing Governor Kate Brown’s stay-at-home orders. 

Judge McShane found that People Not Politicians exercised “reasonable diligence” in attempting to qualify for the ballot, specifically because of the hard work that the campaign did to do outreach, build a broad coalition and plan creatively to collect signatures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Through direct mail to 500,000 households and grassroot volunteer efforts that included multiple methods of outreach to thousands of voters, People Not Politicians gathered signatures from over 64,000 voters who signed IP 57 and mailed it back to the campaign.  

Activists in other states have successfully challenged state petition and signature laws.  In Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia, courts granted extensions of the signature submission deadline and/or reductions in the signature threshold and other relief..  

Kathay Feng, Redistricting & Representation Director for Common Cause said “We filed this lawsuit asking the Court to recognize the extreme and unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic and the burdens that the Governor’s orders placed on PNP’s First Amendment rights. Oregonians will now have a say on IP 57, giving people, not politicians, the ability to  just in time for the 2021 redistricting process.” 

The initiative campaign coalition has been led by the League of Women Voters of Oregon, Common Cause Oregon, Oregon Farm Bureau, the Independent Party of Oregon, NAACP Eugene/Springfield Branch, OSPIRG, Oregon’s Progressive Party, and tens of thousands of Oregonians who supported the effort to remove conflicts of interest from drawing of voter lines. 

Steve Elzinga of Sherman, Sherman, Johnnie and Hoyt represented People Not Politicians in court. Common Cause attorneys Dan Vicuna, Suzanne Almeida, Kathay Feng, and law clerks Alton Wang and Michael Guggenheim, and Kecker Van Nest attorney Adam Lauridsen contributed to the briefs.