A Multnomah County judge has rejected an effort by supporters of Oregon's Ballot Measure 92, which would require GMO labelling, to prevent the state from certifying the results of a recount
Judge Henry Kantor has rejected the Yes on 92 Campaign’s appeal to put a restraining order on the Secretary of State to prevent certification of the November 4 election, in which Measure 92, which would require labelling of GM foods, was narrowly defeated.
The Yes Campaign’s argument was that 4,600 ballots with signatures determined to be mismatched by county election officials with signatures on file should be counted. Although there is no way of knowing (the ballots in question remain sealed), the Campaign held out the possibility that these ballots would have had enough Yes votes to reverse the outcome of the election.
The Yes Campaign is currently discussing options following the judge’s decision.
Americans who want to push forward the issue of mandatory labelling of GM foods should sign up to the newsletter of Food Democracy Now! for updates and actions:
EXCERPT: "We are certainly disappointed with the ruling as we feel strongly that those 4,600 votes are valid and should be counted," said Paige Richardson, manager of the Yes on 92 campaign. "Oregonians will never know the true outcome of this election."
Measure 92: Judge says no to restraining order on GMO recount results
oregonlive.com, 9 Dec 2014
A Multnomah County judge on Tuesday rejected an effort by supporters of Ballot Measure 92 to prevent the state from certifying the results of a recount.
Judge Henry Kantor denied supporters' request, as part of a lawsuit filed Monday, for a temporary restraining order. That leaves the Secretary of State's Office on track to certify results from a recount early next week.
Most counties have finished their recounts -- with no sign of changing the measure's failure in the Nov. 4 election -- and the rest have been asked to turn in results by Friday.
Supporters of the measure to require labeling of genetically modified foods argued in the lawsuit that the state and Multnomah County unfairly rejected about 4,600 valid ballots because the signatures on the ballots didn't match voter card signatures on file.
Because the GMO labeling measure failed by just 812 votes out of 1.5 million cast -- and is headed for a similar result in the recount - supporters argued that the ballots could change the outcome.
With the restraining order denied, supporters' only remaining option to change the outcome is to file a formal challenge of the election with the Marion County Court. If that process led to a ruling that the signature-checking process was invalid, all votes in the Nov. 4 election for or against Measure 92 would be nullified.
"We are certainly disappointed with the ruling as we feel strongly that those 4,600 votes are valid and should be counted," said Paige Richardson, manager of the Yes on 92 campaign. "Oregonians will never know the true outcome of this election."
When asked whether she plans to file an election challenge, Richardson said the campaign is considering its options.
Overall, 13,000 ballots were identified by the state as having signature issues. The state alerted voters of the issue by letter and set a deadline of two weeks for them to fix the problems. About 8,600 voters responded.
Under a new state law, the state also publicly released names of the voters with "challenge" ballots. Both sides worked to get voters to fix their ballots, but supporters made a particularly concerted effort, hoping they could overcome the measure's razor-thin loss.
Jacquie Weber, Multnomah County's deputy attorney, said in court that in the past about 50 percent of voters notified about problems with their signatures fixed the problem. This year, following of the release of the list, she said number of voters who fixed the issue rose to 66 percent.
The statewide tally still showed the measure losing, however, but by a margin of only 0.05 percent -- well under the 0.2 percent that triggers a recount. The recount got under way last week and so far has resulted in a net change of just one vote with 28 counties reporting.
Keith Dubanevich, an attorney with Stoll Berne who represented the Yes on 92 campaign, had argued that the only qualifications to vote in Oregon is that people are 18 and residents. With those eligibilities met, Oregonians must only register and vote.
It's not clear to Oregonians - and not a part of the law, he argued - that to qualify to vote they must also have a signature on their ballot that matches their registration card.
Two of the four points Dubanevich had to prove to win the restraining order was that the 4,600 voters would experience irreparable harm if the process continued and that he was likely to succeed legally in showing that matching signatures isn't required by state law.
Sarah Weston, as assistant attorney general arguing on behalf of the Oregon Secretary of State, hit back hard on those points.
There's never been a problem with the signature matching requirement over the past 30 years that vote-by-mail has been in place, she said. Those voters had been alerted to a problem and had 14 days to fix the issue, which she said was as easy as returning an envelope with a newly signed registration card.
"The plaintiffs need to show today that the system is invalid on its face," she said, adding that the campaign's case fell short of such a serious allegation.
The campaign could have raised the issue before the deadline to fix ballots had passed. And since that deadline was missed, she added, the only appropriate step was for the campaign to file an elections challenge.
"This signature verification process was contemplated by legislators at the very beginning of vote by mail," she said. "You must consider that the public has a keen interest in the finality of elections."