Frankenfood Initiative Looks Dead in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – An Oregon judge denied a request for an injunction from voters who claim the state improperly disqualified 4,600 ballots in an initiative on genetically modified food that lost by 812 votes.
     Measure 92 on the Nov. 4 ballot would require labeling of genetically modified food products. It was the most expensive initiative battle in state history, with companies such as Monsanto spending millions to defeat it.
     The measure failed – 753,478 to 752,666 – triggered an automatic recount. With the recount mostly completed, it still appears that the measure failed by a narrow margin.
     Backers of the initiative on Monday sued Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown and Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott, claiming they disenfranchised voters by refusing to count about 4,600 ballots. They sought an injunction preventing certification of the recount results, which Multnomah County Judge Henry Cantor rejected on Tuesday.
     Lead plaintiff George Dewin Harris claims the state disenfranchised 4,600 voters “because the voters’ signatures on their return identification envelopes do not ‘match’ the signatures on file for those voters.”
     That’s not good enough, Harris says. He says the state cannot reject the ballots unless it has probable cause that the voters “committed forgery or fraud.”
     The state has no such probable cause, Harris says.
     “The Oregon Secretary of State has set loose, subjective standards for county elections officials to use to determine if a signature ‘matches’ the signature on file,” the complaint states.
     “The Oregon Secretary of State has not established any means to determine whether county elections officials have applied these subjective standards consistently, either within the same county or between counties.”
     Though the state sent letters to voters whose ballots had signature problems, the plaintiffs say there are still around 4,600 ballots that were not counted.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Steven Berman with Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Shlachter.
     The state is scheduled to certify the recount results next week.

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