KEEP THE DOUBLE MAJORITY RULE
May 24, 2006
Every year, Oregon�s unique Double Majority rule saves our taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. It is the taxpayer gift that keeps on giving. Year after year, the Double Majority stands there, knocking down tax increase after tax increase that the voters don�t want.
Perhaps, that is why the big government crowd in Oregon is so dead set on getting rid of it. Since it was enacted in 1996 as part of Measure 47, the Double Majority rule has foiled local politicians� favorite strategy for increasing taxes.
Here is what the Double Majority does: Under the Oregon Constitution, a measure that would increase property taxes must be approved by a majority of voters voting in an election in which at least fifty percent of the registered voters cast a ballot. The rule does not apply to general elections, which are held every other year in November.
Under the Double Majority, a measure can garner 75 percent of the vote on election day, but if only say 40 percent of the voters cast a ballot, the vote on that measure is void. It is a voter quorum rule. Just like city councils, county boards of commissioners and state legislatures across this nation cannot pass a law without a quorum, neither can Oregon voters pass a property tax increase without a quorum.
Before the Double Majority passed, city councilors, county commissioners, and school board members would say out loud in their public meetings that their strategy was to place their tax increase on the ballot in a small special election, because they knew it wouldn�t pass in a high voter turn-out general election. In other words, �We want our tax increase, even though the majority of voters don�t want to give it to us. So, let�s put it on the ballot in an election when they aren�t paying much attention and work on getting just our voters to the polls and pass it.�
I first included the Double Majority in Measure 47, which was a property tax limitation initiative Oregon Taxpayers United placed on the Oregon ballot in 1996. When the state legislature re-wrote Measure 47, with my cooperation, I insisted that the Double Majority be included in the re-write. That was part of the deal we made.
After the re-write was approved by voters in May of 1997 as Measure 50, the legislature betrayed me and sent out to voters another measure, Measure 53, which did nothing but repeal the Double Majority. To their dismay, voters embraced the Double Majority in that election by a higher margin than approved the original property tax limitation measure that first contained it.
Every time the Double Majority knocks out some tax increase, there is an eruption of protest from the pro-tax side, saying how undemocratic it is to let those who stay at home on election day nullify the vote of those who cast a ballot. To their protests I have only two things to say:
First, put your tax increase on the ballot in the general election and you won�t have to worry about the Double Majority, because it doesn�t apply there. Second, if you want to increase taxes to pay for something you think government ought to do, you should go out and build enough public support to pass it. If you can�t even get fifty percent of the voters to cast a ballot, it is hard to see that there is any kind of groundswell of public support for increasing the tax you want to increase.
Oregon voters have approved the Double Majority three times now in statewide elections. They like it, presumably because it protects them. If politicians figure out some way to repeal or amend it, we will just have to figure out a new way to limit property taxes even further.
(Bill Sizemore is the executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United. He authored and was chief petitioner for the 1996 measure that contained the Double Majority).
� 2006 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
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Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
It is a voter quorum rule. Just like city councils, county boards of commissioners and state legislatures across this nation cannot pass a law without a quorum, neither can Oregon voters pass a property tax increase without a quorum.