Initiative Petition 51 - Voters Must Prove Citizenship to Vote

OFIR has worked since its founding in 2001 for a state law requiring proof of citizenship for voting.  Such a bill has been introduced into the Legislature in nearly every session since 2003, but has always encountered opposition, chiefly from Democratic Party members.
Initiative Petition 51, sponsored by Chief Petitioners James Buchal and Michael Nearman, would give citizens a direct opportunity to enact this requirement which it seems should be basic for any country or state that values its sovereignty and the integrity of its elections.  The petition has not been approved for circulation, and now the time for signature gathering for the petition is too  short for the petition to go forward.  If the petition were approved, 117,578 valid signatures by July 8, 2016 would be required to get the measure on the ballot in the November 2016 General Election.
Few petition campaigns can collect so many signatures in such a short time unless they are lavishly funded, with many paid signature gatherers. Petition campaigns depending chiefly on volunteer signature gatherers have little chance of success. 
The initiative sponsors have decided it will be necessary to cease campaigning and perhaps try again in the next election cycle.  Delays in the qualification process for the initiative are responsible for this outcome.
There was a delay in the process because the ballot title assigned originally by the Attorney General was unsatisfactory to both the petitioners and opponents of the measure and the assigned ballot title was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled modification was needed.  Not until April 8 was the Certified Ballot Title modifed by the Attorney General; it is currently:  “Amends Constitution:  Voters must register in person using specific citizenship documents: otherwise requires federal verification; registrations expire.” 
The status of pending initiatives is posted on the Secretary of State’s website.  The public can check here to follow the course of IP 51:
It’s very easy for the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s office to write ballot titles that adversely affect the prospects for an initiative.  Their control over the language of the ballot titles makes it possible for them to hamper or expedite the initiative according to their political views.  The ballot title is critical to the success of a measure because many voters are unfamiliar with the subject matter and depend on the ballot title alone to make their decision whether to vote Yes or No.
One of the candidates in the 2016 Primary election, Dennis Richardson, candidate for Secretary of State, has brought the issue of citizens’ petitions into the campaign debate.  He addresses it on his website, saying:  “Dennis believes citizens have the right to petition their government. He’ll work to make the initiative process more transparent and citizen friendly. He’ll advocate for fair and non-partisan ballot titling by proposing a citizen’s commission on ballot titling, which would remove the process from partisan hands.”
The handling of citizens’ petitions is an important issue.  OFIR and other citizen groups have had problems in mounting initiatives and referenda because of apparent resistance from the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s offices.  The Secretary of State administers the process of filing the citizen measures, reviewing petition signatures, etc., and can use delays and other tactics to impede the process.  The Attorney General is empowered to write the ballot titles for initiatives and can slant the title to favor one side or the other.  (This year there are no choices within parties for the Attorney General’s office – there is only one Democrat running, Ellen Rosenblum, the incumbent, and Daniel Zene Crowe, Republican.)  Several issue-oriented groups have recently experienced difficulties as a result of unsatisfactory and slanted ballot titles.  
If a group challenges the language of the title, this delays the process and reduces the time available for collecting signatures, which are due well before the election date as they must be verified by the Secretary of State’s office before the measure is officially approved to go on the ballot.  Then time is needed to include the measure in voter pamphlets, on ballots, etc.  If activists accept the skewed ballot title, they face severe problems of public misunderstanding and failure of the measure.   Thus incumbent Secretaries of State and Attorneys General can and do cripple the efforts of citizen activists with whom they disagree.  Candidate Richardson addresses these problems.
In the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature, a universal voter registration bill, HB 2177 was passed that makes voting by non-citizens much more likely.  OFIR opposed the bill, and several OFIR members testified against it.  The testimony of Janice Dysinger, who opposed the bill, is particularly helpful in understanding the issue:
There is a national problem with voting by non-citizens that has been documented by several researchers.  The problem has become so serious that a new organization, True the Vote, has been formed to address it and other voting irregularities that damage the integrity of our elections.