Case Summary

On June 30, 2020, People Not Politicians Oregon filed suit against Bev Clarno in her role as Secretary of State, contending that the ballot measure signature deadline and requirements ought to be amended for 2020 ballot measures as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

People Not Politicians Oregon began gathering signed petitions online on May 13, 2020. Proponents had until July 2, 2020, to collect the required signatures. After failing to collect the required number of signatures by the deadline, the group filed suit in federal court alleging that enforcement of the ballot initiative requirements in light of the pandemic infringes upon their 1st and 14th Amendment rights to ballot access, political speech, and political participation. Plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief barring the ballot initiative signature and deadline provisions from being enforced or a court order to place the their initiative on the ballot. On July 9, Our Oregon filed an amicus brief in support of the Secretary of State, arguing that the requested changes would shrink the timeframe for opposition movements to the potential ballot measure and thereby harm their efforts.

On July 10, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Secretary of State to either place the initiative on the 2020 ballot or to move the signature filing deadline back to August 17 and to reduce the number of signatures required to 58,789. The Secretary chose the latter option on July 13. On July 15, the Attorney General of Oregon Ellen Rosenblum appealed the federal judge's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which the Oregon Secretary of State did not join in. On July 23, 2020, a Ninth Circuit panel denied the Attorney General's request for an emergency stay of the district court's preliminary injunction pending appeal.

Rosenblum appealed the Ninth Circuit's denial of emergency stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the district judge ought not to have been able to lower the required number of signatures for a ballot measure because only a state government has that power. On August 11, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Attorney General's request for an emergency stay. On September 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ruled that because there was insufficient time to resolve all legal issues prior to the election, the measure would not appear on the ballot in 2020 and subsequently remanded the case to the district court to determine whether the legal issues raised would be moot following the 2020 election.

On June 10, 2021, the district court, on remand, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, finding that the plaintiff’s claim for relief from the initiative petition requirements in light of the pandemic was now mooted.

Case Library

U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene Division - 6:20-cv-01053

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 20-35630

Supreme Court of the United States - 20A21