Supreme Court stops Oregon redistricting ballot measure
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An effort to alter how Oregon draws its legislative and congressional districts has been halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that in a ruling Tuesday, the court granted an emergency stay that will stop, for now, a push by government watchdog groups and others to put a measure on the November ballot placing authority for those districts with a nonpartisan commission.
The stay, which Oregon’s attorney general requested from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan last month, is the latest step in a legal saga over the ballot campaign, known as “People Not Politicians.” In July, the groups argued that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they faced an undue burden in collecting enough signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.
So even though it had too few signatures to qualify, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled the group should face a lower standard. He ordered Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno to either place the measure on the ballot or change the rules so that backers have a much lower signature threshold to qualify for the ballot.
Clarno chose the latter option, meaning the People Not Politicians campaign got an extended deadline and needed to turn in fewer than 59,000 signatures to qualify — less than the 150,000 needed in normal times.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum appealed the ruling, though Clarno hadn’t asked her to, and when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue an emergency stay on the order, Rosenblum went to Kagan.
McShane’s ruling “encroaches on the state’s sovereign authority to determine for itself the process by which its own constitution can be amended,” Rosenblum wrote. “Changing the rules for initiatives by judicial fiat, this late in the election cycle only for one privileged measure, is legally unsupportable and fundamentally unfair.”
The Supreme Court has now agreed.
The ruling could kill the redistricting measure. In order for the proposal to move forward, the appeals court will have to decide on the case. If it rules against Rosenblum, the Supreme Court would need to decide whether or not to take up the matter. The substance and timing of those decisions will dictate whether the measure moves forward.