Monday, June 26, 2006

BREAKING: M26 Authors File Illegalities Claim on 8 Petitions

In a 10:45am press conference tomorrow at the offices of Our Oregon (1125 SE Madison, Suite 210), the chief petitioners of Measure 26, along with the head of signature gathering organization Democracy Resources will present what they claim is evidence of violations of M26:
In the heat of the signature-gathering season, the streets of Oregon have seen widespread fraud, including systemic violations of the ban on payment per signature by at least eight initiative campaigns.

The sponsors of Measure 26 - the 2002 ballot measure that banned payment per signature - have filed an expansive election law complaint in response to a request last week from Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Included in the evidence are statements from signature gatherers for several campaigns stating that they are getting paid per signature in violation of the law.

Ted Blaszak, owner of Democracy Resources, will join the Measure 26 sponsors. Blasak’s company pays legally and by the hour. Because he follows the rules he is losing workers and cannot compete in the unfair environment created by lack of enforcement.

“We hope that there will be a swift and aggressive investigation of this complaint,” says Ellen Lowe, a Measure 26 sponsor. “And we call on all chief petitioners to stand up and be accountable for violations of Measure 26.”

Under state election laws, the chief petitioners are responsible for violations of state election laws. Under Measure 26, the chief petitioners could be fined $100 per petition sheet collected illegally.
Having established a bit of a relationship with Chris Iverson, the Chief Petitioner for one of the targeted petitions (on effectively decriminalizing marijuana enforcement in Portland), I immediately asked him for comment. [Disclaimer: I have volunteered to help collect signatures for this petition, since I believe in it. I've put in maybe 2 hours, and gotten six signatures.] Iverson appeared unconcerned, based his statement regarding the matter:
We do not pay by signature. We have a complicated formula that pays by validity, territory AND number of signatures. As a matter of fact we lose lots of money every week because we have to pay people who don't turn in any signatures and still charge us for hours.

I have done nothing wrong and expect to be fully cleared of any 'charges' against me.
Note that Iverson admits that the number of signatures IS a factor in how gatherers are paid; he is relying on the premise that because it's not the ONLY factor, he's in the clear. However, going back to the KATU story we reported on last week, at least one gatherer is claiming that they are being paid bonuses specifically on the signature count:
"It's 10 dollars an hour, but if I get more than 10 signatures an hour, say I get 26 signatures, I get 26 dollars an hour," [gatherer "Shalisa"] said. In addition, if she gathers 250 signatures in the next three weeks she'll receive a bonus of $225.

"They just really want the signatures," she said.
While Iverson doesn't believe he's done anything wrong, he believes that DR owner Blaszak is just upset with him:
Blaszak is pissed because he treats his people like shit and they all want to come work with us. We also pay a little more then them and our initiative is the easiest one to get people to sign. Plus all the people that work on our campaign are totally into what we are doing. Blaszak has many 'mercenaries' who will work on any issue as long as it pays enough. This is why he is filing the complaint.
This press conference could turn out to be pretty damned interesting--which is why Carla will be there, and give you a full report when it's over.