Tangled web they weave when practice to deceive


The 2013 Legislature created a new driver card for only one reason — to grant driving privileges to Oregon residents unable to prove legal presence in the United States, thus hoping to reduce the number of Oregonians taking to the roads without being licensed and insured. There is only one difference between driver license and driver card requirements in Oregon — the need to prove legal residency in the U.S. in order to obtain a license.

So it should have come as no surprise when Attorney General Ellen Rosenbloom — a Democrat, by the way — adopted the following ballot title for a citizen referendum designed to overturn the authorizing legislation: “Provides Oregon resident ‘driver card’ without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States.” In our view, that summarizes the measure as succinctly as humanly possible.

Why, then, would the 2014 Legislature’s majority Democrats mount an effort to change that language, excluding the public along the way? There can really only be one reason — to deceive Oregon voters going to the polls in November and reduce chances for voter-repeal of the law.

Here’s their alternative language: “Establishes limited purpose, duration driver card for individuals who prove Oregon residency, meet driving requirements.”

It avoids the appearance of granting special privileges to people in the country illegally by simply eliminating all mention of immigration status from the ballot title. It ignores the fact that illegal residency is the only barrier to routine driver licensing. If you can fool enough people, you can move the electoral dial in your direction.

For good measure, Democrats rendered Supreme Court review moot and provided no other avenue of timely appeal. Don’t worry about the fact there is absolutely no precedent for legislative interference in the drafting of ballot titles for citizen initiatives or referendums, only for measures actually initiated by the Legislature itself.

Is there no limit to how far a group of partisans will go to game the system in hopes of rigging the outcome? If they were so sure about the righteousness of their original position, which enjoyed bipartisan support, why not take their chances in a fair election? Why not respect the separation of powers doctrine enshrined in both the state and federal constitutions and leave ballot titles to the non-partisan judicial sector?

The perpetrators of this fraud argue otherwise, but it rings utterly hollow. They clearly wanted to improve their electoral prospects.

To our moral arguments against this effort, let us add one that is utterly practical: Such tinkering is prone to backfire. Repeal advocates will be well-funded, and they won’t miss this opportunity to inject anti-government venom into the debate. Monkey with the ballot in such a cynical way and you surely pay a commensurate — if not disproportionate — electoral price.

The state’s largest newspaper blasted this move editorially, terming it a self-serving, misdirected and breathtakingly cynical abuse of process.

Amen. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This is not the way to conduct the people’s business.