McCann/Harmon v. Rosenblum

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Ballot Titles
  • Date Filed: 01-30-2014
  • Case #: S061799
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kistler, J., En Banc
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 250.035, a ballot title must include a caption, results statements, and summery which adequately describe the effects of voting one way or another, and reasonably identify the subject matter. Where more specific language is available, it should be used to describe the ballot title in a simple and understandable way that adequately describes the effects a ballot title would have on current law.

Harmon and McCann sought review of the certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 30 (IP30). IP30 would increase the minimum profits tax of corporations making over fifty-million dollars in Oregon sales, and reduce the minimum profits tax of corporations making under one-million dollars in Oregon sales. The caption, the “yes” and “no” vote result statements, and the summary of IP30 were challenged by McMann, who argued that these did not reasonably identify the subject matter and used misleading language. The Attorney General agreed that the captions omitted some information, but that the ballot title informs voters of IP30’s “main subject” and does not use misleading language. The Court held that the caption and result statements neglected to describe the major effects IP 30 would have on current law, but that the summary did not. When more specific words may be used in writing a ballot title description, they should to adequately convey the subject matter in a simple and understandable way; for example, use of the word “modifies” was misleading because it did not give voters sufficient information about the effects of IP30, namely that it increases and decreases corporate tax liability. Ballot title referred to Attorney General for modification.

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