Celebrate clarity on the ballot

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board April 07, 2014 01:03 pm

Nowhere is clarity in writing more important than on a voter’s ballot.

And so we’re pleased with the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision last week regarding the wording of a ballot measure that Oregonians likely will vote on in November.

The measure has to do with the state’s plan to give four-year driver’s licenses to people who can’t prove their living legally in the U.S.

Last year the Legislature approved a bill allowing the state to issue what are known as driver cards, which would have a label distinguishing them from standard driver’s licenses.

Opponents are asking voters to overturn that law. The ballot title accurately describes the state’s system as providing “Oregon resident ‘driver card’ without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States.”

Backers of the drivers card plan, though, tried to circumvent the ballot initiative with a bill in this year’s legislative session. That bill, which fortunately failed, would have removed from the ballot title the reference to “legal presence” and stated instead that the state planned to issue a “limited purpose, duration driver card for individuals who prove Oregon residency (and) meet driving requirements.”

Not only did the bill die in the state Senate, but now the state Supreme Court has approved the clear language in the ballot title.

Replacing the reference to “legal presence in the United States” with “individuals who prove Oregon residency” is a blatant attempt to mislead voters.

Most reasonable people would assume that a person who has proved Oregon residency is also legally entitled to be in the U.S. Why, then, would anyone object to the state issuing such people a drivers card?

The truth, of course, is that the 2013 law allows the state to confer driving privileges on people who haven’t proved that they have a legal right to be in this country.

We can understand why voters would object to the state doing that.

Thanks to the state’s highest court, those voters will understand precisely what they’re being asked to do.