Two Bend residents, one of them a city councilor, filed petitions seeking to change the ballot title and summary of a proposed initiative that would prevent the county from enforcing gun laws.
Three Redmond residents are sponsoring the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance. It would broadly re-interpret “firearms” in the U.S. and Oregon constitutions to protect “ancillary firearms rights.” It would empower the Deschutes County sheriff to determine whether any local, state or federal gun law is unconstitutional under that broader interpretation. And if the sheriff does deem a law unconstitutional, the measure would forbid the county from enforcing the state or federal law. Violations could result in a fine of up to $2,000.
Under Oregon law, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel was charged with writing a ballot title and summary for the initiative.
Zandra Brant and Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell separately challenged Hummel’s work. Brant argues that the summary is “unconcise and vague,” while Campbell calls it “insufficiently worded.” (Read their complaints and Hummel’s responses below.)
Only the accuracy of the summary is eligible for a challenge at this phase of the initiative process, but that did not stop Brant and Campbell from shoehorning complaints about the measure into complaints about the summary, confusing at least one daily newspaper.
They allege several shortcomings to the ballot title, most of them targeting the content and effects of the measure more than the summary.
For example, Campbell argues that the summary should identify how the county would pay for any legal challenges and that the measure conflicts with state pre-emption. She also claims that passage of the measure would endanger women and law enforcement in the county.
Brant argues that the summary fails to identify which laws the sheriff would find unconstitutional.
Hummel confirmed that he cannot unerringly predict the future or read minds. How the county would choose to pay for a lawsuit or what Sheriff Shane Nelson and all future sheriffs might decide are unknown.
Under state law, Hummel had to produce an impartial summary of the measure and its major effect, not render legal judgments and forecast the future. He was limited to 175 words.
“The Legislature tasked me with the responsibility to accurately and succinctly inform voters about what is in this initiative,” Hummel said. “I added nothing to my summary that was not in the text of the initiative, and I did not let my personal feelings influence what I wrote.”
Hummel opposes the measure.
Campbell has read Hummel’s written response to her challenge, and said she is having second thoughts about some of her arguments.
“[The measure] is blatantly unconstitutional, but I understand that that argument will not win at the hearing,” she said. “Where I am in this process is deciding which, if any, of my complaints to just plain drop. I don’t want to waste the court’s time.”
That doesn’t mean she will give the measure itself a pass. She said that the ballot title is the avenue for challenging it now. If it lands on the ballot, she will campaign against it.
“I will do everything in my power to make sure that people understand that the sheriff himself opposes this ballot measure.
State code requires the court to conduct its review “expeditiously” so as not to unduly delay signature gathering. Presiding Judge Wells Ashby has been assigned to the case, and a hearing has been scheduled for May 14 at 10 am.
Supporters of the measure must submit 4,144 valid signatures by Aug. 6 to place the measure on the November ballot.See related PDF
See related PDF