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Oregon Direct Democracy: Circulating and Signing Petitions
Initiative or Referendum are an important ways to get involved in direct democracy, especially because of supermajorities

Editor's note: This is the third of a multi-part series on direct democracy in Oregon

The Oregon Secretary of State publishes the rules for Initiatives and Referenda in the State Initiative and Referendum Manual. If you are actively involved in a campaign to gather signatures, it is well worth reading. You might learn something and dispel some myths along the way.

A circulator is an individual who asks voters to sign a petition and signs the petition as a circulator. It's always a good practice to ask each prospective signer if they are a registered Oregon voter. Most circulators are volunteers and it's important that they follow the requirements and guidelines for circulating petitions. You may notice that the petition form has a box that says that "Some circulators for this petition are being paid." If the campaign ever wants to use paid signature gatherers, they have to check that box at the beginning.

While gathering signatures, the circulator must witness each signature collected. That means that they must watch the person sign the petition. It is not sufficient to merely be present in the same room or vicinity. After the sheet is filled or they are done gathering for the time being, they have to complete the circulator certification.

Provide the date when the certification was signed. The date must be provided in month, day, year order -- like 08/16/21 -- written in all numbers.

A circulator must allow any person to read the text of an initiative or referendum petition. A complete copy of text must be available for signers of an initiative or referendum to review. These are often printed on the back side of the petition.

It is against the law for circulators to knowingly offer money or anything of value to another person to sign or not sign the petition and they may not write, alter, correct, clarify, or obscure any information about the signers unless the signer initials after the changes are made. At times signers will make a mistake and scribble out the mistake. That's fine, but they need to put their initials above the scribbling. A circulator may assist a disabled signer who requests assistance in completing their printed name, address and date signed. In such a case, no initials are required.

A signer is a person who is a registered Oregon voter who agrees to sign the petition. The signer must provide an original signature -- just as contained in their voter registration record -- but is encouraged to provide their printed name, date signed, and address. The printed name, address, etc. is only used for the Secretary of State to validate that the signer is a registered voter. None of this is legally necessary for the signature to count, but obviously it helps. The signer can put their residence address or the mailing address that the county has on file for where to mail a ballot. One common mistake is to have one person fill out the date an address information for themselves and their spouse and then just have the spouse sign.

Each signer must be an active registered voter at the time of signing the petition in the electoral district where the petition is being circulated. Most petitions are statewide, so that requirement is easy.

If the signer has downloaded an electronic eSheet, they must have personally printed a copy of an eSheet or requested a separate person print a copy. Circulators may not use e-sheets to gather signatures. They may only use the 10 line or 5 line signature sheets.

Gathering signatures for and Initiative or Referendum is an important way to get involved in Oregon's direct democracy, especially when the legislative process is not an option because of supermajorities.

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-08-16 09:30:08Last Update: 2021-08-14 10:27:31

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