Proponents of Referendum Opposing Driver Cards for Illegal Aliens Defeat Measure Undermining it

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Article date: 
Monday, March 10, 2014
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Oregon Issues
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Proponents of a referendum that seeks to overturn an Oregon law giving illegal aliens access to driver cards defeated an attempt to undermine the ballot measure. A bill that would have re-written the referendum title in a manner favorable to keeping the law failed to clear the State Senate before adjournment.

Oregon Referendum 301 – a ballot measure entitled Protect Oregon Driver Licenses – will give Oregon voters an opportunity in November to overturn a law passed last year that gives illegal aliens access to driving privilege cards. The Oregon Supreme Court is currently handling a dispute over the ballot’s title but proponents of the law sought to preempt those deliberations by legislatively re-writing the title in a manner favorable to keeping the law.

The title as qualified for the ballot states: “Provides Oregon resident driver card without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States.” The Oregon House passed a bill (HB 4054) to re-write the ballot as follows: “Establishes limited purpose, duration driver card for individuals who prove Oregon residency, meet driving requirements.”

Proponents of HB 4054 claimed the ballot title “doesn’t reflect their goal of improving public safety” – a rationale often used by those seeking driving privileges for illegal aliens. But the Oregon DMV recently announced the law’s passage has not thus far reduced unlicensed driving.

Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), the group that qualified the referendum for the ballot, argued the Oregon Supreme Court should decide the matter of the ballot title, not the state legislature. And they had high-profile help from a major newspaper – The Oregonian. The paper’s editorial board on Feb. 24 called the legislative re-write, “a breathtakingly cynical move that would taint the very law they’re trying to preserve.” And in a second editorial on Feb. 25, the board said proponents are trying to “hijack the normal process for writing ballot titles. “

The phone calls, emails and personal lobbying efforts by OFIR leaders paid off. HB 4054 was set for a vote in the Senate Rules Committee, which schedules floor action, but the committee never took up the bill before the legislature’s adjournment.

OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll said in a statement, “Oregonians and every major newspaper across the state raised their voices in loud protest of the Oregon Legislature's unprecedented attempt to hi-jack the ballot language for the citizens veto referendum #301. Their intentions were crystal clear - to re-write the ballot title and summary to deceive the public - to confuse the voter - and ultimately win the election by burying the fact that SB 833 grants state issued ID, in the form of a special driver license, to applicants who can't prove legal presence in the US. Oregonians prevailed and the bill died Friday when the Senate refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.”