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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pot Petitioners Sue the State, Alleging Disenfranchisement

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 12:28 PM

A constitutional amendment that would legalize growing and using marijuana in Oregon failed to qualify for the ballot last week, even after a monumental $427,784 effort.

Now the marijuana measure backer, Robert Wolfe, is planning to sue the state, alleging that the Elections Division is disenfranchising voters by nitpicking petition signatures. The Measure 24 campaign spent over $208,000 during the past six months on roughly 175 signature gatherers who hit the streets around Oregon to snag voters' support for putting the marijuana legalization amendment on the ballot. The secretary of state began investigating the campaign this spring and said they were illegally paying petitioners per signature, slapping the campaign with a proposed $65,000 fine. The state also threw out 54 percent of the campaign's signatures for collections errors, which is 5-14 percent worse that the disqualification rate for other ballot measure campaigns this year.

Wolfe's lawsuit, officially filed today, alleges that the methods the state used to disqualify signatures unconstitutionally hinders the state's initiatives system.

“Under Kate Brown, the elections division has implemented extremely punitive, arcane, and complex rules that drive them to disqualify as many signatures as possible from these petitions,” complains Wolfe, who hopes a judge will agree that the signature validation system is “rigged against voters.”

"We use the same signature verification formula for all initiatives," responds Secretary of State press agent Andrea Cantu-Schomus. "The formula has been held up in court numerous times and has been used for several years."

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