Supreme Court blocks Oregon group from collecting signatures online for ballot initiative

Supreme Court blocks Oregon group from collecting signatures online for ballot initiative

The Supreme Court has blocked a lower court ruling that would have made it easier for a group promoting redistricting reform in Oregon to collect signatures in the midst of the pandemic.

The court’s move is the latest example of the justices ruling against plaintiffs who have asked the court to relax ballot rules because of the coronavirus. The Supreme Court turned down a similar request from a group out of Idaho in late July.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the order.

A group called “People Not Politicians” had proposed an amendment to overhaul the process for drawing congressional and legislative maps in Oregon. In particular, it is seeking to push forward an initiative that would create a citizens’ redistricting commission to draw congressional and state legislative lines. The group claimed that because of the pandemic, it was unable to collect the necessary in-person signatures and could only pursue online and mail-based, signature-gathering methods. A lower court judge ordered Oregon’s secretary of state in July to either accept the signatures the coalition had already submitted that would have required the redistricting reform initiative to be placed on the November ballot, or give the group until mid-August to collect the necessary signatures.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court order blocking the lower court decision is a victory for Oregon, whose attorney general argued that a lower court injunction “effectively rewrites the provisions governing how the Oregon Constitution can be amended through an initiative” and “threatens to enshrine permanently in the state constitution an amendment that does not meet state requirements.”