Measure to let Oregon voters choose 'none of the above' to go on ballot

SALEM, Ore. -- A measure to give Oregon voters a choice of "none of the above" when they elect judges has qualified for the November ballot, state elections officials said yesterday.

They said, though, that a measure to have Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges elected by geographical districts instead of statewide failed to attract enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

The "none of the above" plan is sponsored by political activist Don McIntire. He said people are getting fed up with courts overturning voter-passed measures.

The Secretary of State's Office said backers of McIntire's measure turned in 92,783 valid petition signatures. They needed 89,048 signatures to place the proposed constitutional amendment before voters.

McIntire said judges are insulated from public opinion and rarely draw election opponents.

Under his measure, if "none of the above" got more votes than any other candidate, another election would be held in which the original candidates could run again.

McIntire said he thinks the no-confidence vote would spur competition and possibly discourage judges from issuing rulings that go against public sentiment.

"I do not think it will result in the wholesale eviction of judges, but it will make them think twice about what the public wants out of their judges," McIntire said.

The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association said yesterday it plans to campaign against the measure, which also would require vacancies in judgeships to be filled by election, not appointment by the governor.

Jane Lesser, executive director of the trial lawyers group, said the "none of the above" provision would create vacancies in judgeships if voters choose that option over the listed candidates.

Meanwhile, elections officials said backers of the measure to elect appeals judges by region instead of statewide fell 911 signatures short of the number needed to qualify.

The proposed constitutional amendment would divide the state into seven regions of equal population to elect Supreme Court members. There would be five regions, each electing two judges, for the Court of Appeals.

The measure was sponsored by anti-crime activist Steve Doell. He said that most appeals judges come from Portland or Salem, and that having jurists from rural areas could bring fresh views to the courts.

So far, elections officials have certified three initiative measures for placement on Oregon's November ballot.

Besides the "none of the above" judge election measure, the others would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods and provide health insurance to all Oregonians, regardless of their ability to pay.

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