Group delivers petitions to force vote on driver-privilege cards

Article author: 
Carol McAlice Currie
Article publisher: 
Statesman Journal
Article date: 
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

Volunteers and others supporting Oregonians for Immigration Reform tried to pile seven boxes laden with signed petitions onto a hand-truck Thursday and then gave up.

They could only get four on the handled dolly, so they grabbed the remaining three boxes and headed for the fifth floor of the Oregon Public Services building because they weren’t going to give up on their mission – delivering 60,000 signatures to the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office one day before the deadline.

The heavy lifters included the group’s president, Cynthia Kendoll and her husband, Jerry, volunteer Jim Ludwick, Lee Vasche of the Signature Gathering Company of Oregon and Oregon Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford. Their delivery, they said, was the first of two. The group expects to deliver another 10,000 to 12,000 signed petitions today, about 60 minutes before the elections division closes.

The OIR goal, Kendoll said, is to overturn a new Oregon law granting driver-privilege cards to residents without documentation. If the group does not have enough valid signatures to qualify Referendum No. 301 for the November 2014 ballot, the new law will go into effect in January.

Kendoll estimates the group will have more than 70,000 signatures to ensure it meets the state’s 58,142 valid-signature requirement. As the group exited the building, additional volunteers were still offering clipboards with petitions to passers-by on the steps of the state Capitol.

Motivating them is Oregon Senate Bill 833, which Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law in May in front of thousands of supporters at the Capitol. The bill authorizes driver’s cards for those lacking documents to obtain a regular driver’s license. Kitzhaber said at the time that SB 833 ensured that thousands of Oregonians could drive to and from work, school, church and errands.

OIR contends, however, that the law gives driver privilege cards to people who are in the country illegally. It wants voters to decide the issue, not lawmakers.

Cynthia Kendoll said she’s confident the group will qualify the measure for the ballot. The group has had four months to collect the signatures, and used a combination of paid signature gatherers and volunteers. She’s optimistic, she said, because the group has had requests for referendum sheets from 134 Oregon cities and communities, and more than half of the petitions are what she calls “single-signer sheets”

“That means that people are going to their own computers and printing off a petition from our website, signing it and then mailing it to us,” Cynthia Kendoll said. “These carry a high validity rate.”

Summer Davis, a compliance specialist with the SOS elections division, confirmed that e-sheets, as they’re officially called, have a higher validity rate.

“Think about it: when people print out a petition, they then give it to someone they know, there is no stranger coming at them asking them to sign something. It’s true they tend to be valid more often,” Davis said.

After getting a “letter of receipt” from the elections division, the group watched as a worker locked the boxes in a cage. They were told the others will be added to the cage when they’re received, and then the elections department will have 30 days to certify the petitions. If the group meets the 58,142 signature threshold, the law will not go into effect as planned.

The certification will begin between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Monday in the building’s basement. Observers are welcome with advance notice, the group was told, to which Cynthia promptly asked, “Can I ask to attend now?”