PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A recently unveiled survey shows a majority of people prefer the question of Portland’s Charter reform to be asked in several questions, as opposed to just one bundled question. The proposal the city-sanctioned commission researching the reform has put to voters is currently one question.
KOIN 6 was given the survey by North Star Civics by former commission co-chair, Melanie Billings-Yun. It was conducted in late March and presented in May.
Nearly all of the research is publicly available on North Star’s website, except the poll that asked the 500 respondents if they preferred multiple questions or one question. The results showed that 72% preferred multiple questions, 22% preferred one combined question, 2% preferred neither of both and 3% didn’t know or didn’t answer.
Vadim Mozyrsky was also on the commission and says he was advocating for multiple questions while the commission formed its proposal.
“What we were told is this is how Portlanders wanted it this is how Portlanders want it, in one piece because it’s more likely to pass as a bundle rather than separated out, and now we know that’s not true,” Mozyrsky said.
Billings-Yun says the Commission was working off its own research that showed different results.
It worked with FM3 research on voter preference and found increasing voter preference among the 600 respondents when questions were combined.
Just over half (51%) of respondents supported being asked about just the city council and mayor, adding on ranked choice voting increased support to 56%, and when the question of city council districts was added on, 59% of respondents supported the packaged question.
“We didn’t base our decision on polls, we based our decision on what we were trying to achieve and what we were trying to achieve was a better form of government that would be representative of the people in which all the parts would work together,” she said.
Billings-Yun does not believe the poll would have changed the 17-3 vote that sent the proposed reform straight to voters. Mozyrsky was one of the three no votes and points to North Star’s intentional over-representation of people of color in the poll as a reason some may have been swayed.
“I think that would have made a big impact had people known,” he said.
Since the proposal was voted on by the commission, the single-question versus multiple questions has fueled opposition to the reform by some community members and groups, like the Portland Business Alliance. PBA CEO Andrew Hoan has filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, arguing it violates Oregon’s single-issue requirement for ballot questions.
Mozyrsky believes voters should be asked about the reforms in three questions to ensure a “truly democratic process.”
“Any version of those can pass separately and it can still work,” Mozyrsky said.
Billings-Yun worries that multi-member districts passing without ranked choice voting, worrying it will create a scenario where people can group together on a campaign.
She also raises a hypothetical: what if city council districts pass, but reforming the city council does not?
“Say the person representing Northwest runs the police department, the person representing southeast runs the fire department. This just wouldn’t work,” Billings-Yun said.
A court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 11 to hear the PBA’s complaint.