Oregonians voted to maintain the status quo in Tuesday’s election, striking down first-in-the-nation measures to label genetically modified foods and institute comprehensive state-funded health care.
While measure 27, the food labeling law, is generally considered to have been outspent into failure by opponents, pundits feel that both initiatives failed on their own merits.
“Twenty-seven really deserved to fail,” said Libertarian candidate for governor Tom Cox. “I thought it was poorly thought-out and poorly written. I don’t think it accomplished what it intended.”
“I think the state health care plan was problematic at best. It wasn’t written well and people didn’t really know what it was going to do,” said chairman of PSU College Democrats Jesse Cornett.
“I’m kind of relieved that the universal health care referendum failed, because that would obviously invite people who had medical problems to flood the state,” said College Republican Julia Moore.
While polls indicated that both of the controversial measures were going to be defeated in the election, other measures were more of a surprise.
Measure 17, which would have reduced the minimum age to serve as a state legislator from 21 to 18 lost by a large margin, 27 to 72 percent.
David Smeltzer, professor emeritus of political science at PSU, feels that the measure didn’t receive enough exposure to win.
“Who even heard of that measure in terms of support for it?” Smeltzer asked. “The point is, there wasn’t any money spent on it.”
Cornett was discouraged by the failure of measure 17.
“Using measure 17 as a sort of barometer, it seems like turnout was really low,” Cornett said. “At best, one in five voters under the age of 35 voted.”
The reason for the low young-voter response?
Cornett, who was involved in getting measure 17 on the ballot, said, “There was an extraordinary amount of negative advertising in this race.”
He believes that young people were turned off by the amount of negativity in the campaign.
Attempts to restructure how judges were elected in the state also failed, but by close margins.
Measure 21, allowing a “none-of-the-above” vote in judicial elections failed 43 to 56 percent, the outcome being clear Tuesday night.
The fate of measure 22, which would require judges to be elected by district instead of statewide elections, wasn’t decided until Wednesday afternoon, when it narrowly failed 49 to 50 percent.
Cox was a little discouraged by the failure of measure 22.
“I thought that was a good idea just in terms of increasing citizen involvement in the courts,” Cox said. “People outside the Willamette Valley feel oppressed.”
Much of the opposition to the two judicial reform measures came in the way of questioning the backer’s motives. Opponents claimed that both measures were funded by conservative interests seeking to change the political makeup of Oregon’s courts.
Cox says that during his campaign he encountered a lot of rural frustration with the Oregon appellate courts.
“There’s a lot of resentment there. Measure 7 is big,” Cox said.
Measure 7 was recently overturned by the courts. The measure would have forced the state to compensate landowners if land-use policy devalued their property. The courts decided the measure violates Oregon’s single-issue rule, requiring that ballot measures can only address one issue.
“I thought measure 7 was in the right direction, but when I read the measure and I read the decision overturning it, I had to reluctantly admit that it did violate the single issue rule,” Cox said.
Measure 18, which would have allowed districts to set permanent property tax rates, failed by 40 percentage points.
Measure 25, which comprehensively raised Oregon’s minimum wage, passed by a narrow seven-point margin.
“Fiscally speaking, it’s not the wisest way to give people living wage jobs, because ultimately what happens is that it drives up inflation and ultimately raises the cost of living,” Moore said.
Seismic upgrades for schools and hospitals were approved both by a 10-point margin.
Measure 26, which bans paying signature gatherers working for ballot initiatives on a per-signature basis, passed by a resounding 50-point margin.
Measures 14 and 24 also passed.
Measure 14 will remove racial references from the Oregon constitution, and measure 24 allows denturists to install partial dentures without the input of a dentist.
Cornett was concerned about the 28 percent of voters who voted against measure 14, but hoped that about 20 points of that outcome was accounted for by voters who voted against all the measures.