Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Breaking: First Things First Repeal Fails, Again!

So much for that hope:

PORTLAND, OREGON - CITY HALL -- The City of Portland announced today that the campaign to repeal the City's public campaign finance program has submitted 25,855 valid signatures, 836 less than the 26,691 required to qualify for the ballot.

This revised final signature count comes after the City, Multnomah County and State of Oregon elections officials discovered a technological error in the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration system and a procedural error in processing the petition sheets.

Multnomah County elections officials recertified and released the results to the City of Portland this morning. As soon as elections officials became aware of the potential errors, they requested advice from the Secretary of State's Elections Division. The County, City and State then undertook a full and thorough review of the petition to ensure that every valid signature was counted and that all applicable laws and procedures were carefully followed.

The technological error mistakenly excluded 49 registered voters from the valid signature count, while the procedural error mistakenly included over 180 petition sheets that contained circulator errors. The technological issue in the Centralized Voter Registration System has been resolved and city and county procedures have been reviewed to avoid future errors of this nature.

You win some (49 signatures), you lose some (180 pages).

According to The O this morning (not found online as far as I can tell), FtF is seeking an investigation of the process. I'm sure this will only deepen their resolve, but at the moment, the repeal is once again dead.

Update, 1pm:
I spoke with Diane Betcher, spokesperson in the Auditor's Office for the City. The person with primary responsibility for such matters is out of the office this week, but Betcher was able to describe the "circulator errors" in question. For the most part, they revolved around the process whereby the circulator affirms the information on each sheet of signatures. The circulator is to review each sheet, then sign AND DATE each sheet as an affadavit.

What was found was that the process was not followed: no date was given, the date was crossed out and not restated, or restated and not re-signed, and--most damagingly--signed PRIOR to the completion of the sheet. Because the signature stands as an affadavit that the circulator has reviewed the COMPLETED sheet, if citizen signatures appear that are dated after the date the circulator signed it, logically the circulator did not verify those signatures.

Betcher indicated that the rules on signature gathering were changed by the Secretary of State's office in 2004, but that in some cases the City did not receive the documentation of those changes until recently. Not having the proper point person available, Betcher could not say if the FtF petitioners were possibly given incorrect information on how to fill out the sheets, or even if the rules governing dates had changed in the latest version. I'm hunting down the SoS's office, and a copy of the rules, to see if that can be cleared up. Stay tuned...