Think Before You Ink

What are petitions?

Petitions can send decisions to ballots as ballot measures, if enough certified signatures are collected. There are 3 types of petitions:

 Initiative:  Registered voters can put issues on ballots to change law, Oregon Revised Statutes, or to amend the Oregon Constitution.

 Referral:  The Legislature can refer an undecided issue or a bill they passed to voters for approval. Bills that amend the Oregon Constitution must be referred to voters and don’t need petitions.

 Referendum:  Registered voters can try to reject (veto) bills passed by the Legislature by placing a referendum on the ballot. These referenda are not subject to veto from the Governor.

Before Signing a Petition, Ask Yourself...
  • Is it TOO COMPLEX? Some decisions may be simple yes or no votes. Other decisions will affect many areas of government. Make sure you understand the implications and consequences if this petition becomes law.
  • Is it CLEAR? Some proposals aren’t well-written. They may have conflicts requiring court interpretations or resolutions.
  • Does it BELONG in the Constitution? Is it a fundamental law that should be protected? Changes or mistakes would require another (costly) election to amend the Oregon Constitution.
  • Is it an “unfunded mandate”? Would the Legislature need to pull funds from other essential programs? Initiatives should generally not earmark, restrict, or obligate specific General Fund revenue percentages.
  • Before you sign, ask to see ID. Paid gatherers must carry photo ID issued by the Secretary of State. State law requires them to show ID to certain officials, but not to voters. If they don’t, voters can reasonably wonder why. Numerous instances of fraud could have been avoided by insisting on seeing ID. If fraud is found, your information could help.

Your Signature is Valuable

Similar to primary versus general election votes, your vote has proportionately more impact on petitions. Never sign a petition “just to get it on the ballot so people can vote on it.”

How Many Signatures Are Needed?

For statewide issues, this is defined by how many voted in the last Governor’s race when a Governor was elected for a full term. Signatures are “certified”, compared to voter registration signatures on file in the state Elections Division. Invalid or duplicate signatures are not counted.

 To PASS a Ballot Measure: 

50% + 1 (a majority of votes cast)

 To PUT Measures on ballots: 

8% (for constitutional amendments)
 (for initiatives)
4% (for veto referenda)

Note: petitions may be for local issues.

Look Up Who Is Behind It

Chief Petitioners are listed on the Oregon Secretary of State Initiative, Referendum, and Referral Search page. Chief petitioners and funders of ballot measures are not required to be Oregonians.

Follow The Money

See ORESTAR, the Oregon website to find organizational and financial information for ballot measure, candidate and political action (PAC) committees.

Call the Oregon Elections Division if you have questions: 503-986-1518.

See our PDF brochure, “Think Before You Ink”, also available in Spanish “Piense Antes De Firmar”