Same-sex rights opponents seek verification of petition

Supporters of a move to repeal the state's domestic partnership law pressed Jackson County Clerk Kathy Beckett Tuesday to count referendum petition signatures even though the signed names didn't match the signatures on voter registration cards.

"My signature should count," protested Medford resident Bob Bolling, who signed the petition to repeal Oregon's law.

Bolling spoke to Beckett Tuesday along with members of the political group backing the referendum, Concerned Oregonians. The group fell 116 signatures short of the required 55,179 signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, but because of Oregon's sampling procedure for validating signatures, the measure could qualify for the ballot if six signatures can be validated.

The referendum seeks to overturn the Oregon Family Fairness Act signed into law on May 9, 2007, by Gov. Ted Kulongoski that takes effect in January 2008. The law gives same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities that are granted under state law through a marriage contract.

Bolling's was one of 13 signatures that were invalidated in Jackson County because the signature on the petition didn't match the signature on the voter registration card.

Bryan Platt of Concerned Oregonians said he hoped Beckett would change her mind about eight of the signatures. Platt said Bolling and seven other voters agreed to go to Beckett's office to make their case for validating their names.

"Those eight will be adequate to change the results statewide to put (the referendum) on the ballot," he said.

Platt said that Beckett has until Friday — the deadline for verifying the signatures — to change her mind. "There is no statute that prohibits her from doing it," he said.

Rep. Peter Buckley, who championed the domestic partners act, said Beckett has followed the rules and the referendum supporters reviewed every step of the process.

"I think it's unfair pressure to put on the county clerk," he said.

Concerned Oregonians also appealed to county clerks in other counties throughout the state, but Platt said the most signatures were gathered in Jackson County.

Beckett said she sent all the petitions back to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office after she went through a lengthy process to verify signatures as part of a statistical sampling.

"At this juncture, we're done," said Beckett.

To save money and time, state law allows a statistical sampling to determine how many signatures are valid on initiative petitions. Out of 7,321 signatures gathered in Jackson County, Beckett's office reviewed a sample of 351 signatures. Each sampled signature equals about 20 signatures, according to the method the state uses to verify. If six additional signatures could be verified, that would equal about 120 signatures under the sampling process, which would be enough to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Unless the secretary of state wants to send the petitions back, Beckett said it's out of her hands, even as she met with supporters of the referendum Tuesday.

"I don't think there is a statute or administrative rule that they can hang their hat on to make this happen," she said.

Beckett said supporters of the referendum were present when county elections officials reviewed the signatures, and she didn't hear any protests at that time.

"That just didn't happen, and they were here watching the entire process," she said.

On Tuesday, she showed supporters of the referendum a signature on a petition that failed to match the signature on a voter registration card.

Beckett said the rules are different during an election. If a signature can't be verified, her office gives the voter 15 days to make his case.

Bolling said he thinks that his signature on the petition is like voting to put the referendum on the ballot.

Discounting the signature "takes away from my rights as a voter," he said.

Brenda Bayes, deputy director for the secretary of state, said Beckett's office has thoroughly reviewed the signatures and she is confident in the results.

Bayes said it's up to Beckett whether she wants to review the signatures again.

"It's the county elections official's decision to make the call," she said. "That would be her decision at this point."

Platt said that if his group is turned down by Beckett, he expects it could lead to a legal challenge.

Perry Atkinson, general manager of KDOV, a Christian radio station, said voters approved Measure 36, which defined marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. He said that when the governor signed the domestic partnership legislation, he defied the principles behind Measure 36.

The referendum, he said, "is returning the will of the people."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

Share This Story