PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With recent information in the mail and online about the charter reform measure on the ballot, one group is accusing the City of Portland of deliberately misleading voters.
The group that is leading the no vote against the charter reform measure has filed complaints with state and local officials, saying the city’s recent messaging on the measure is not impartial.
“It is clear that the City’s ‘educational information’ campaign, through its website, Twitter, and repeated mailers, amounts to thinly disguised advocacy in favor of the measure at taxpayer expense,” said Vadim Mozyrsky, leader of Partnership for Common Sense Government.
With one week to Election Day, voters are consuming a lot of information, especially on the ballot measure that would change the city of Portland’s form of government.
“We have to ensure that voters have the needed and correct information in order to make an informed choice about the future of our democracy,” Mozyrsky said.
The Partnership for Common Sense Government filed complaints with the Secretary of State and Auditor’s Office with the Ombudsman, accusing the City of Portland of leaving out critical information and misleading voters on the charter reform measure on public websites, social media and recent ballot flyers in the mail.
Key claims include:
- The city obscures the kind of ranked-choice voting on the ballot
- The city simplifies the ranked-choice voting process by using unrealistic imagery to convey it as an easy voting system
- The city fails to state the total cost of $44 million for the implementation process
- The city leaves out critical information about the mayor’s role
“They’re trivializing the cost and they’re also making people believe that the kind of ranked-choice voting that’s being proposed here is the ranked-choice voting that’s being used in other places like New York City or Benton County or Alaska,” Mozyrsky said. “It’s very unique here, and I think for Portlanders to decide with respect to how they want to be governed for possibly the next hundred years, we need to make sure that they get the facts that they need in order to make that decision.”
For example, the Commission has proposed two types of voting for Portland: Instant runoff (RCV) for the mayor and auditor (requires 50% +1 to win), and single transferable voting (STV) for council members (requires 25% +1 to win in a three-member district).
The City website and other City communications say 43 jurisdictions use RCV, including Benton County, Oregon.
Mozrysky says this messaging implies that those cities and counties are using what is proposed here, Single Transferable Vote. However, he said the majority of the 43 jurisdictions use runoff RCV only and do so in single-member districts, not in multi-member districts like proposed for Portland.
The Partnership for Common Sense Government is asking that the city be directed to remove the current information or add additional context for voters. The group believes City of Portland is violating Oregon law by omitting available information in its educational messaging.
“The city has certainly set aside a budget for the charter commission in order to educate the public. And that’s great, but let’s educate on the facts that the charter commission actually has before it,” Mozrsky said.
Charter Commission Engagement and Communications Coordinator Sofía Álvarez-Castro shared the following statement on behalf of the city:
“The City of Portland is committed to provide neutral and factual information about Ballot Measure 26-228. The City of Portland requested the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division’s Safe Harbor program to review all the public education materials to ensure compliance with ORS 260.432. The public education materials posted on the City of Portland’s website and the mailers have been granted safe harbor status for compliance with ORS 260.432.”