Initiative and Referendum

ORS 250.035
Form of ballot titles for state and local measures


(1)

The ballot title of any measure, other than a state measure, to be initiated or referred shall consist of:

(a)

A caption of not more than 10 words which reasonably identifies the subject of the measure;

(b)

A question of not more than 20 words which plainly phrases the chief purpose of the measure so that an affirmative response to the question corresponds to an affirmative vote on the measure; and

(c)

A concise and impartial statement of not more than 175 words summarizing the measure and its major effect.

(2)

The ballot title of any state measure to be initiated or referred shall consist of:

(a)

A caption of not more than 15 words that reasonably identifies the subject matter of the state measure. The caption of an initiative or referendum amendment to the Constitution shall begin with the phrase, “Amends Constitution,” which shall not be counted for purposes of the 15-word caption limit;

(b)

A simple and understandable statement of not more than 25 words that describes the result if the state measure is approved. The statement required by this paragraph shall include either the phrase, “I vote” or “vote yes,” or a substantially similar phrase, which may be placed at any point within the statement;

(c)

A simple and understandable statement of not more than 25 words that describes the result if the state measure is rejected. The statement required by this paragraph shall not describe existing statutory or constitutional provisions in a way that would lead an average elector to believe incorrectly that one of those provisions would be repealed by approval of the state measure, if approval would not have that result. Any thing or action described both in the statement required by paragraph (b) of this subsection and in the statement required by this paragraph shall be described using the same terms in both statements, to the extent practical. Any different terms must be terms that an average elector would understand to refer to the same thing or action. The statement shall include either the phrase, “I vote” or “vote no,” or a substantially similar phrase, which may be placed at any point within the statement; and

(d)

A concise and impartial statement of not more than 125 words summarizing the state measure and its major effect.

(3)

The statements required by subsection (2)(b) and (c) of this section shall be written so that, to the extent practicable, the language of the two statements is parallel.

(4)

The statement required by subsection (2)(b) of this section shall be written so that an affirmative response to the statement corresponds to an affirmative vote on the state measure.

(5)

The statement required by subsection (2)(c) of this section shall be written so that an affirmative response to the statement corresponds to a negative vote on the state measure.

(6)

In the statements required by subsection (2)(b), (c) and (d) of this section, reasonable discretion shall be allowed in the use of articles and conjunctions, but the statements shall not omit articles and conjunctions that are necessary to avoid confusion to or misunderstanding by an average elector. [1979 c.190 §143; 1979 c.675 §1; 1985 c.405 §1; 1987 c.556 §1; 1987 c.875 §1; 1995 c.534 §1; 1997 c.541 §312; 1999 c.793 §1; 2001 c.104 §78; 2009 c.566 §3]

Notes of Decisions

There is no established right to gather signatures on all premises open to public and ballot measure was modified to avoid leading voters to think they are simply confirming existing state of law when state of law is in issue and part of reason for this initiative effort. Fred Meyer, Inc. v. Roberts, 308 Or 169, 777 P2d 406 (1989)

Where ballot measure does not purport to make statement about public policy but simply prohibits certain activities, language of ballot title substantially complies with requirements of this section. Oregon Citizen's Alliance v. Roberts, 308 Or 599, 783 P2d 1001 (1989)

Where language in ballot title differs from language of proposed amendment but adequately explains chief purpose of measure, language substantially complies with requirements of this section. Oregon Citizen's Alliance v. Roberts, 308 Or 599, 783 P2d 1001 (1989)

Where Attorney General chose two potential secondary effects from universe of such effects and placed them in ballot title Explanation, ballot title was modified to exclude potential secondary effects. Oregon Citizen's Alliance v. Roberts, 308 Or 599, 783 P2d 1001 (1989)

Where petitioner claimed ballot title caption was inadequate because it did not make clear that voters must approve use of vehicle tax revenues for mass transit in vote separate from vote on measure itself, caption modified to read "Permits Using Local Vehicle Taxes For Transit If Voters Approve." Feeney v. Roberts, 309 Or 324, 787 P2d 485 (1990)

Where ballot title proposed by Attorney General for "Oregon Recycling Act" was challenged because it failed to state that most significant aim of measure was to ban all nonenvironmentally sound packaging but measure did not, in fact, ban all nonenvironmentally sound packaging, ballot title certified as proposed. Whitty v. Roberts, 309 Or 448, 788 P2d 452 (1990)

Where diversion or redirection of monies from state General Fund is important fiscal consequence of challenged proposed initiative measure, substantial compliance with this section requires mention in ballot title summary. Nelson v. Roberts, 309 Or 499, 789 P2d 650 (1990)

Where reduction in state General Fund revenues would be fiscal consequence of measure's passage but not its chief purpose, ballot title modified to refer to increase in wine taxes and liquor prices. Aughenbaugh v. Roberts, 309 Or 510, 789 P2d 656 (1990)

Ballot title was properly certified where summary simply quoted proposed measure providing constitutional right to privacy and did not attempt to predict specific effects. Kane v. Roberts, 310 Or 423, 799 P2d 639 (1990)

Ballot title for proposed initiative measure stating, "Permits marijuana use to treat medical conditions" complied with this section and substituting word "restores" for "permits" was not necessary notwithstanding that former statute had permitted medical use of marijuana. Taylor v. Keisling, 312 Or 236, 819 P2d 1385 (1991)

Question should build on and be consistent with Caption. Baker v. Keisling, 312 Or 385, 822 P2d 1162 (1991); Mabon v. Keisling, 317 Or 406, 856 P2d 1023 (1993)

Because section 11, chapter 396, Oregon Laws 1991, requires inclusion of local property tax "tag line" in Summary segment of ballot title, court has authority to review necessity of including property tax tag line in specific Summary. Nelson v. Keisling, 313 Or 212, 830 P2d 591 (1992)

Caption that emphasizes only one particular effect of measure does not reasonably identify measure's subject. Mabon v. Keisling, 317 Or 406, 856 P2d 1023 (1993)

Absent compelling reason to contrary, Caption, Question and Summary should use words used in measure. Bernard v. Keisling, 317 Or 591, 858 P2d 1309 (1993)

Function of caption is to identify primary subject matter of measure, not explain possible effect of measure. deParrie v. Keisling, 318 Or 62, 862 P2d 494 (1993)

Where measure has more than one apparent purpose, Question must include most significant aim or end measure is designed to bring about. deParrie v. Keisling, 318 Or 62, 862 P2d 494 (1993)

Attorney General may certify identical, similar or different ballot titles for measures so long as confusion between measures is unlikely. Rooney v. Kulongoski (Elections Division #13), 322 Or 15, 902 P2d 1143 (1995)

Where part of measure language is ambiguous, inclusion in measure summary of possible major effect of ambiguous language is not required. Garst v. Myers, 326 Or 186, 951 P2d 142 (1997)

Where subject matter is sufficiently conveyed in caption by less than maximum number of allowed words, use of additional words to emphasize certain measure effects is improper. Carson v. Myers, 326 Or 248, 951 P2d 700 (1998)

Statutory preference for parallelism in result statements is secondary to requirement that statements accurately describe result of vote. Carson v. Myers, 326 Or 248, 951 P2d 700 (1998)

Prohibition on use of similar ballot titles applies only if similarity causes confusion. Carlson v. Myers, 327 Or 213, 959 P2d 31 (1998)

Similar or identical ballot titles that accurately reflect extensive similarity or identity of ballot measures are not confusing. Carlson v. Myers, 327 Or 213, 959 P2d 31 (1998)

Requirement that ballot title be sufficient outweighs preference for giving similar measures identical ballot titles. Dirks v. Myers, 329 Or 608, 993 P2d 808 (2000)

Result statement for "yes" vote must express measure effect directly rather than relying on inference created by result statement for "no" vote. Patterson/Lowe v. Myers, 330 Or 264, 998 P2d 677 (2000)

Result statement for rejection of measure that merely parallels result statement for measure approval is insufficient if other formulations of statement would provide greater information regarding result of rejection. Nesbitt v. Myers, 335 Or 424, 71 P3d 530 (2003)

Where ballot measure is complex and multifaceted, incomplete listing of major aspects of measure is insufficient to identify subject matter of measure. Kain v. Myers, 336 Or 116, 79 P3d 864 (2003)

"Result" of measure approval means outcome of enactment that is most significant and immediate or that carries greatest consequence for general public. Novick/Crew v. Myers, 337 Or 568, 100 P3d 1064 (2004)

Ballot title that merely places doubtful or disputed term in quotation marks does not sufficiently identify source of term or indicate whether term is specially defined. Carley/Towers v. Myers, 340 Or 222, 132 P3d 651 (2006)

Where terms critical to meaning of measure are undefined, failure to use quotation marks or other device to draw reader's attention to terms renders caption or vote result statement inadequate. Morgan v. Myers, 342 Or 165, 149 P3d 1160 (2006)

Where concept is key to understanding of ballot measure and word limitations permit, concept should be stated in both caption and "yes" vote result statement. Stacey v. Myers, 342 Or 455, 154 P3d 109 (2007)

Where ballot measure uses term in manner other than commonly understood meaning, use of term in ballot title caption or vote result statement is misleading notwithstanding use of signals indicating term has special meaning. Tauman v. Myers, 343 Or 299, 170 P3d 556 (2007)

Where adoption of measure would have effect of overriding existing constitutional provision, stating that measure amends Constitution is insufficient to describe subject matter or effect of measure. Meyer v. Myers, 343 Or 399, 171 P3d 937 (2007)

Where effect of ballot measure is ambiguous, ballot title must communicate ambiguity to voters. Caruthers v. Myers, 344 Or 596, 189 P3d 1 (2008)

Use of quotation marks to indicate limited effect of measure is inappropriate. Chamberlain v. Myers, 344 Or 612, 188 P3d 240 (2008)

Where immediate and direct effect of provisions being referred is imposition of temporary assessments, caption must be modified to prominently and accurately explain assessments before describing programs funded by assessments. Parrish v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 96, 403 P 3d 786 (2017)

Where measure being referred uses term "assessments," ballot title's use of term "assessments" would not confuse or mislead voters and substantially complies with statutory requirements. Parrish v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 96, 403 P 3d 786 (2017)

Where legislatively enacted measure contains operative dates conditioned on whether federal agency takes action and referendum petition refers only select provisions to voters but does not refer conditional operative date, question of whether conditional operative date is to be given effect is legal question to be addressed after voters decide, and not appropriately addressed in ballot title. Parrish v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 96, 403 P 3d 786 (2017)

Whether reference to specific quantity or magnitude in caption is required depends on nature of initiative measure and complexity of underlying law. Wilson/Fitz v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 226, 407 P3d 825 (2017)

Parroting precise words of initiative measure in caption is not always adequate to communicate major effect of measure. Wilson/Fitz v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 226, 407 P3d 825 (2017)

Law Review Citations

34 WLR 143 (1998)

Chapter 250

Notes of Decisions

Initiative measure filed in election cycle must satisfy all statutory and constitutional requirements and be placed on ballot in that election cycle; if proponents wish to put measure on ballot at another election, they must start initiative process over during next election cycle. Unger v. Rosenblum, 362 Or 210, 407 P3d 817 (2017)

Law Review Citations

27 WLR 132 (1991); 75 OLR 561 (1996)


Source

Last accessed
Jun. 26, 2021