Eugene canvassers turn in the last batch of signatures for the 2020 STAR Voting for Eugene Campaign. Though the campaign in fact turned in more than the required number, a ruling that voters who were rejected in error would still not be counted caused STAR Voting to be denied ballot access. 


STAR Eugene 2020 Initiative Lawsuit:

The STAR Voting for Eugene campaign turned in 10,406 signatures to qualify for the May 2020 ballot, but despite turning in well over the 8,091 signatures required, the 2019-1 petition was found to be short 111 signatures and was deemed "void." The verification process looked at a 20% sample of the signatures submitted, invalidated 22%, and determined that the fate of the petition accordingly. If only 23 of the signers who were rejected from the sample had been counted the petition would have qualified. 


The STAR Voting for Eugene Campaign has three separate claims as to why the petition should have qualified for the ballot:
1.) 23 valid Eugene voters who were rejected from the 20% sample for "signature mismatch" promptly signed and submitted affidavits affirming that they had in fact signed the petition and verifying the authenticity of their signatures. Counting these would result in an additional 115 signatures being counted. 

2.) 255 voters were unfairly disenfranchised and rejected due to having been listed as inactive. (See below for more information.) 

3.)  An "error report" was submitted documenting 34 signatures which were rejected for "signature mismatch" but which we analyzed and believe should have been counted. Correcting these verification errors would result in an additional 170 signatures being counted. The following is a breakdown of the errors discovered:

  • 11 signatures are clearly matches and we could not identify a reason why the signature was rejected. 
  • One example is a signature for a woman who was recently married and signed with her new last name.
  • One example is a signature for "Pat Ryan" which was rejected as not matching Patricia Ryan, but which does match her husband Charles Patrick Ryan. The two go by Pat and Patricia respectively. 
  • One example is a signer who printed her name in the signature field, but then initialed as well. Her signature on file is her initial. 
  • One example is a signature that was crossed off by the signer and should not have been counted at all but was erroneously rejected as illegible (which results in 4 other signatures being disqualified as well.)
  • One example is a signer whose signature on file is sloppy and signed the petition with a somewhat neater version. 
  • One example has their signature on file in italic but signed the petition in cursive. The signatures clearly match. 
  • 8 signers either signed their signatures in the column for the printed name or their printed name, in fact, matched their signature on file. The campaign had confirmed in writing with the County Clerk that signers would not be rejected for these types of minor issues if the signature is on the sheet and verifiable, but these signers were rejected anyway.


Lawsuit Filed:
On these grounds, the Equal Vote Coalition has filed a lawsuit calling for the petition to be certified. Plaintiffs include Mark Frohnmayer, one of the chief petitioners, Mark Osterloh, the top volunteer canvassers, and three of the signers whose signatures were erroneously rejected, Pat Ryan, Robert Selvan, and Erin Rappold. Defendants include Beth Forest in her official capacity as City of Eugene Recorder, and
Cheryl Betschart, in her official capacity as Lane County Clerk. 
The case was heard in Lane County Circuit Court and was ruled "moot" in early December of 2020 on the grounds that the election we had aimed for had passed. Opposing council did not dispute our proof that the signers were indeed valid. This ruling is incorrect. Statewide initiative law requires that statewide ballot initiatives must aim for a specific ballot, but this is NOT the case for local initiatives. Local initiatives are certified to the next ballot after they are approved, and our petition has not been approved yet, so the clock has not started ticking. 
More on Inactive Registered Voters: 
Below you will see an update from our legal council, Dan Meek: 
​"​Attached is an Oregon Court of Appeals opinion issued yesterday, ​[12/31/20]​ Whitehead v. Clarno.  It decides that inactive registered voters can validly sign initiative petitions.​"​
"The County Clerk disqualified from the 20% sample of STAR Voting signatures a total of 51 inactive registered voters.  Considering them valid would increase the overall count by 255, more than enough--by itself--to make up the supposed shortfall of 111 signatures."
That ruling was later overturned in the Oregon Supreme Court and will likely be appealed at the federal level. The practice of disqualifying or removing "inactive" registered voters from the polls or from initiatives is currently the focus of nationwide attention and this is one of the key examples of the type of voter disenfranchisement that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities and that was explicitly banned in the 1969 Voter Rights Act. Oregon should be better than this and we call on the legislature to pass legislation reaffirming the rights of voters and upholding the integrity of the ballot initiative process. 

Next steps for the STAR Voting for Eugene Lawsuit:
The STAR Voting for Eugene lawsuit was slated to be heard by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2022, but the court declined to hear the case without comment. We are taking the lawsuit to federal court next, where precedents on voter disenfranchisement are stronger. 
If any of these three claims are upheld STAR Voting for Eugene will be placed on the ballot at the next election with enough advanced notice provided.  
Because these cases can drag on for years, we are reaching out to our elected representatives to call for this injustice to be remedied by them directly and as quickly as possible. We again asked Eugene City council and the Lane County Commissioners to take action, to request that Lane County Elections revisit the rejected "inactive" signers and re-certify the petition, and if not, to place the initiative on the ballot themselves.