GUARD AGAINST PETITION SIGNATURE SHENANIGANS

May 29, 2002 12:00 am

Oregon has an excellent system in which the people's proposed laws (initiatives) get on the ballot after a certain number of voters sign petitions.

THE SYSTEM works well most of the time. Occasionally, someone will get involved in some illegal activities in the signature-gathering process. Such was the case with James Gurga, who recently pleaded guilty in Multnomah County Circuit Court to one felony count of signing a petition in another name and a misdemeanor count of forgery.

Gurga will be on two years probation in which he is prohibited from gathering signatures. He'll pay a $1,500 fine and put in 100 hours of community service. He is the second petition circulator in Oregon to be sentenced in the past three months.

The incidents have prompted Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury to alert voters of simple steps they can take to help reduce the risks of being victimized. Bradbury suggests all Oregonians treat their signature as carefully as they do their own vote.

Those signing petitions should:

• Read the petition. The ballot title and a summary of the measure must accompany every signature sheet. Know what you are signing.

• Keep in mind that only registered voters can sign initiative petitions.

• Fill out the entire signature sheet. The law only requires the voter to sign the sheet, but handwriting your name and address reduces the chances that your name can be forged.

• Oregon law allows each voter to sign a petition for a measure only once. If you are asked to sign multiple sheets, you are probably signing on to multiple measures.

• Those who believe they are a victim of initiative petition fraud should contact the Secretary of State's Elections Division.

Oregon's initiative petition process works well most of the time. It gives people the chance to create or change laws, without relying on action of the Legislature. Voters should be vigilant to make sure no one is misusing their signatures or abusing the petition process in some way.

MAKE STRIPES VISIBLE

Painting the lane stripes on Interstate 84 must be a high priority for the Oregon Department of Transportation as soon as the ice and snow of winter melts from the roadway. The constant beating of tires on the lanes makes the paint all but disappear by spring.

HEAVY FOG AND RAIN made it extremely difficult for motorists to see the faded stripes Monday night on the three eastbound lanes of Cabbage Hill near Pendleton.

Motorists must be able to see these stripes clearly to navigate safely under adverse conditions. Regular painting of the stripes or using a more permanent process to keep the stripes bright is needed.