The new secretary of state and attorney general in Oregon, both Democrats, have been making it clear that they don't care much for ballot initiatives and are going to make it harder to qualify measures for the ballot. They intend to scrutinize initiative filings more closely, and are seeking to enhance penalties for fradulent signature gathering.
Phony signatures have been a part of the political process as long as signatures have been sought by initiative sponsors and candidates. A good validity rate for signatures in an initiative campaign is about 70 percent. But in Arizona this year, several measures had validity rates of 50 percent or lower. That's alarming, and suggests there was widespread fraud.
But there's reason to worry that the elected officials are thinking more about politics than the law. It's noteworthy that the attorney general-elect, John Kroger, hired an attorney who has represented the teachers' union in years of initiative battles with Bill Sizemore, an Oregon activist who, a court recently suggested, is addicted to the filing of initiatives. The state should be careful that it doesn't limit political rights. A new state law already raises the bar considerably for filing petitions, with the signature requirement merely for submitting a petition (as opposed to qualifying it for the ballot) rising from 25 to 1,000 signatures.