SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Elections Division on Thursday released the election manual updates under consideration for the 2018 election cycle. After considering public feedback, the Elections Division intends to finalize manual changes effective January 1, 2018.
Proposed changes include updating deadlines with 2018 dates, implementing election law changes passed during the 2016 and 2017 sessions, and adding clarifications to make the manuals more user-friendly. These changes will increase efficiency of Elections Division processes, thereby, saving taxpayer money, officials said. The changes will also equalize the playing field for grassroots advocates and minor parties.
Policy highlights of particular note include:
- Allowing smaller parties without precinct committee persons to file party statements in the primary election voters’ pamphlet. This creates a more equal playing field for all parties and promotes diverse perspectives outside the two-party system.
- Removing arbitrary reasons for disqualifying valid voter signatures, such as the weight or size of petition paper.
- Eliminating existing language that inadvertently disadvantages (mostly younger) people who have a legal signature that is printed script instead of cursive. A person must sign with their legal signature, regardless of whether it is cursive or printed script.
- Increasing transparency for campaign spending on online and social media advertising.
- Ensuring that persons with disabilities have the right to sign petitions with assistance and without extra initialing.
- To equalize the playing field, giving volunteer petitions the same monthly turn-in options as petitions using paid circulators. Currently, all-volunteer petitions may not turn-in signatures until they have 100% of what is required.
- Permitting volunteers to distribute e-sheets, which only have one signature and do not require circulator certification. This empowers citizens to petition their government.
- Clarifying that a candidate without a high school degree is not required to highlight that fact in the voters’ pamphlet. This eliminates a source of potentially subtle discrimination against candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Assisting grassroots candidates by providing a safety net for those who want to file for office by submitting signatures instead of a filing fee. Candidates who choose to submit both a filing fee and signatures will have their filing fee refunded if they gather enough valid signatures by the deadline. If there are insufficient valid signatures, the filing fee will be retained and the candidate will not be disqualified for failure to satisfy the fee requirement.
- Protecting candidate privacy by allowing them to use any valid phone number where they can be reached during normal business days, instead of requiring them to disclose their home phone.
The Elections Division encourages members of the public to email written suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be provided in-person during administrative rule hearings at the Elections Division 255 Capitol St NE, Suite 501, Salem OR 97310.
A hearing on Friday, December 15 from 10:00am-12:00pm will cover the following manuals:
- State Candidate’s Manual;
- County, City, and District Candidate’s Manual;
- Political Party Manual; and
- Campaign Finance Manual.
A hearing on Monday, December 18 from 2:00pm-4:00pm will cover the following manuals:
- State Initiative and Referendum Manual;
- County, City, and District Initiative and Referendum Manual;
- Circulator Training Manual;
- Recall Manual; and
- Referral Manual.
Before publishing notice of these rules for public feedback, the Elections Division sent proposed changes to a Rulemaking Advisory Committee and made a number of changes based on their suggestions. Representatives from a number of organizations were invited to participate, including all major and minor political parties, the four legislative caucus political action committees, counties, cities, school boards, special districts, Our Oregon, Oregon Business & Industry, and campaign treasurers from the two largest parties.