Tax survey sparks election complaint

SALEM — State election officials said Wednesday they are looking into a complaint that a consultant who's running the campaign to defeat two tax hikes has been sending surveys to voters that look too much like Oregon's mail ballots.

The complaint was filed by the League of Women Voters of Oregon, which supports the tax hikes that will be on the state's Jan. 26 special election ballot.

The league says it's worried the surveys sent out by consultant Mark Nelson might confuse some voters and make them think they're actually returning their mail ballots.

"It looks enough like a ballot that it does raise that question, especially if somebody is in a hurry or has bad eyesight," Marge Easley, the league's president, said in an interview.

But Nelson said the surveys are designed to gauge voter sentiment on the tax increases, not to confuse anyone.

"We've been doing this for 25 years, and no one has ever mistaken this for a ballot," he said. He said he expects to send out a total of 110,000 of the surveys to randomly selected households.

Don Hamilton, spokesman for the Oregon secretary of state's office, said officials are looking at whether Nelson's survey violates a state law prohibiting distribution of an imitation ballot unless it contains the words "not for official use" in boldface type.

Nelson's survey contains the words "this is not an official ballot" in lighter type below a headline saying: "January 26, 2010 special election.'

Hamilton also said while other organizations have used imitation ballots, Nelson's is unusual because at the bottom it says, "No postage required. Simply place your completed ballot in the enclosed postage-paid envelope and mail promptly."

"We are reviewing it now, and we will decide what steps to take in the next couple of days," he said.

In the Jan. 26 election, Oregon voters will decide whether to uphold tax increases the Legislature imposed on corporations and higher-income residents.

Backers of the $727 million tax increase package say it will protect schools and critical services while keeping the burden off middle-class families. Business groups and other opponents say the tax increases will cost the state private sector jobs and keep Oregon in recession.

Share This Story