The Oregonian, Sept. 13, 1984, p. A1

Despite denial, petitioners vow to return to court

By John Hayes

SALEM - The Oregon Supreme Court Wednesday rejected a request to order that a marijuana measure be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot after backers said some petition signatures were wrongly disqualified.

The ruling appeared to have foreclosed the initiative sponsors' last chance to win a statewide vote this year, but supporters said they would make one more run at the court later this week.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Norma Paulus declared that the results of a recount ordered by the Supreme Court showed the drive to legalize the growing of marijuana for personal use had not collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

But the initiative sponsors vowed to continue the court fight to prove their contention that Paulus had twisted the initiative rules to deny Oregonians a chance to vote on the issue. Another motion to the court would be ready by week's end, said Michael E. Rose, a Milwaukie lawyer representing the petitioners.

John Sajo, the drive's statewide coordinator who Tuesday called Paulus' election officials "crooks," said, "I think they are delaying us at this point. They are lying one way or another."

Paulus has repeatedly denied the allegation that she sought to disqualify the measure through technicalities in the validation process because she was personally opposed to the initiative.

During a Tuesday news conference, she reminded initiative supporters that she had voted as a legislator to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Paulus initially disqualified the initiative July 20 after ruling that a 5,125 -name sample of the 85,003 names submitted on petitions showed supporters would be considerably short of the number of valid signatures needed.

Paulus later said that about 24 percent of the names checked were not the names of qualified voters, a rate of invalid names roughly three times as high as usual.

But the initiative backers went to court charging that Paulus had made hundreds of mistakes in checking the petition names, disqualifying several hundred valid signatures.

The Supreme Court ordered a recount Aug. 29, telling Paulus to correct five specific types of errors identified by the petitioners, but the recount failed to put the initiative drive over the top, Paulus concluded.

On Wednesday, the court denied without comment the motion asking the court to force Paulus to place the initiative on the ballot or to show why she shouldn't be held in contempt for not doing so.

Paulus has repeatedly defended the sampling practice used to validate petition signatures as statistically accurate.

Although the petitioners submitted more than 85,000 names in an attempt to meet the requirement for 62,521 names, the sample of names validated by Paulus showed the petitioners had likely gathered only 61, 658 names.

The review gave election officials a 95.5 percent assurance that the petitions did not contain enough names to qualify for the ballot, Paulus said.

The petitioners had argued before the court that while the sampling method could be used to check an initiative that clearly had enough signatures, the marijuana petitions should be counted in total since the estimated number of valid signatures was only 863 less than the number required for the ballot.

The court, however, did not settle that question, choosing instead to order a recount based on five specific allegations of error by Paulus' staff. The ruling without comment Wednesday again left the question unanswered.



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