Rasmussen v. Kroger

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Ballot Titles
  • Date Filed: 11-23-2011
  • Case #: S059448
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Durham, J. for the Court
  • Full Text Opinion

Ballot initiatives that substantively change existing law must directly address in the ballot title the substantive change the initiative proposes to address. Additionally, the measure must address the substantive effect of a "yes" or "no" vote.

Rasmussen sought review of the ballot title caption and resulting statements for Initiative Petition 18 (2012) (Initiative 18). If enacted, Initiative 18 would prohibit any state or local estate tax, inheritance tax, property tax on property in connection with a person’s death, or tax on a transfer of property between “family members.” Currently, such taxes only affect estates valued at more than $1 million. The Court held that when a proposed ballot measure results in a substantive change of existing law, the ballot title should inform voters as to the scope of the change. In this case, the Oregon Supreme Court held that Initiative 18 resulted in a substantive change in the law because it changed Oregon’s estate tax law. Rasmussen argued further that the “yes” or “no” vote did not meet statutory standards, since the “yes” or “no” statements did not adequately inform voters of Initiative 18’s effects. The Court agreed with Rasmussen, since the statement “estates of a certain value” did not inform voters which estates are currently subjected to estate taxes, which estates would be affected by the adoption of Initiative 18, or which estates would continue to be taxed if the initiative were rejected. Ballot title referred to the Attorney General for modification.

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