Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Repeal the double-majority law

If you're not familiar with it, the double-majority law says that if a government entity is seeking approval for a taxing measure, it must get at least a 50 percent voter turnout in that election along with the a majority of the votes.

And, voters have approved the double-majority rule twice. It was initially OK'd in 1996 by 62,000 votes (4.5 percent), which placed the law in the state Constitution so it could not be monkeyed with by the legislature. In 1998, the legislature asked voters to repeal the '96 law, but it was approved again by 16,000 votes (2.6 percent).

But now that Democrats are in charge of the Oregon legislature, they have pushed through a measure that would again request voters to repeal the law. Because of those two affirmative votes, I side with Republicans who protest that this is a slap in the face of voters. But really, Republicans are just as guilty of this (see Ballot Measure 51, asking for a repeal of physician-assisted suicide). I also buy the argument put forth by House Majority Leader Dave Hunt that "a majority of voters should have the right to decide the outcome of elections."

Overall, I think the Republicans are skating on thin ice on this issue. The double-majority law is a gimmick, one that indicates desperation and an unwillingness to debate the issue of taxes on its merits. If Democrats came up with such a gimmick -- such as the Senate filibuster -- the GOP would rightly denounce it for its anti-democratic basis. The fact that voters narrowly approved the law a decade ago does not change its gimmicky, anti-democratic nature.

I suppose you could argue that if governments can't convince half of all voters to participate, they don't deserve approval on taxation requests. But that's not how our democracy works. People are voted into office and measures approved or denied based on the votes of those who care enough to participate. We don't call for a recount if a county commissioner gets into office with 15 percent of the vote. We may call it pathetic, but we also call him "commissioner."

If the GOP can't convince a majority of voters to turn back taxation requests based on the merits of their arguments -- whether that majority be 52 percent of eligible voters or 2 percent -- they have no business relying on gimmicks to outweigh the people who are willing to show their desires on the ballot.



  • At 6/21/2007 4:03 PM, Anonymous db Lulu said…

    Ken, Ken, Ken,

    I have come to expect much more from you.

    Your argument falls flat on three counts:

    1) The current double majority law DOES allow for a simple majority to pass tax proposals if they are on a General Election ballot.

    2) It's true that perception is reality in politics, but that doesn't excuse repeating invalid perceptions. The referral of Physician-Assisted Suicide was not done because Republican leaders thought voters were stupid. There was new information that had not been available during the campaign. And it was done in a careful, respectful way.

    Looking back, that is not the way it was perceived, but please don't compare that with what the Democrats in Salem are doing now.

    3) There is a pattern of behavior this session by the Democrats that was NEVER the case with Republican leadership of messing with the will of the people.
    The kicker
    Private Property Rights (Measure 37)
    Mandatory Minimum sentences (Measure 11)
    Traditional Marriage (Measure 36)
    and the latest, repeal of the Double-Majority

    A politician can justify anything if they are convinced that the voters just don't know what they are doing. This is the attitude of the D leadership in Salem.

  • At 6/21/2007 9:45 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Lulu --

    1) I had forgotten that the double majority didn’t apply to general elections, so I stand corrected -- it's only anti-democratic during primary elections.

    2) My intention wasn't to say the Dems were better or the GOP was worse. Indeed, I share your conviction that the Dems are more willing to mess with the voters, whether by arguing unintended consequences (M37) or splitting hairs (same-sex marriage). So, I should not have said Republicans are “just as guilty.”

    But I also don't think the Dems are doing it because they think the voters are "stupid," they just don't like the voters' decisions and think if they keep asking, eventually they'll get the answer they want. In my mind, that should make their intelligence a little suspect.

    If your argument is that the M51 revote was pushed through because of new information, the Democrats could make the same argument about M37, M11 and the double majority.

    And your point about the Dems’ willingness to mess with the voters’ decisions doesn’t change the fact that the double-majority is a gimmick that allows tax opponents to shrink from the debate, puts inequitable weight on the side of those who choose not to vote, and diminishes the voice of those who actually submit their ballot.

  • At 6/22/2007 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The dems are now going after Talk Radio

    Any resemblance to Hugo Cheves, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler? I think so!

  • At 6/22/2007 3:01 PM, Anonymous db Lulu said…


    I didn't wade into the principle argument on the double majority, because I agree with you. However, it is important to be accurate.

    There is no point in a further detailed discussion of the Measure 51/Measure 16 repeal situation. Given what we know now, opponents of physician assisted suicide would opt for a citizen-driven initiative to repeal rather than a referendum.

    As for the Democrats. I will maintain my position that the Democrats do not merely disagree with the voters but believe they are incapable of making good choices which I interpret as believing we are stupid, or in more politically correct verbiage -- less-informed.

    This is the simplest way I can describe the mindset:

    I am in charge
    the voter's put me here
    therefore if the voters have a different opinion than I do
    they are stupid
    I must vote the way I wanted to in the first place

  • At 6/25/2007 9:29 PM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    My fav is the D's latest.

    Want to avoid rules on passing taxes? Don't call tax increases tax increases.

    Democrats are breaking so many rules on so many levels it's getting hard to keep track.

    The Double-majority law is just one more check on government gone wild.

  • At 7/03/2007 9:20 PM, Blogger RINO WATCH said…


    The Double Majority has actually been affirmed, passed 3 times.

    Measure 47 - 1996
    Measure 50 - 1997
    Measure 53 - 1998

    It is agood law that must be upheld again in Nov 2008, otherwise we will face tax increases constantly by the minority...


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