Voters in Oregon may have the opportunity to vote on the ban on taxpayer-funded abortions in November.
Oregon Life United, the political action committee behind the anti-abortion initiative, announced on Friday that it had registered 141,200 signatures before the Friday deadline.
The initiative would be prohibit the use of public funds pay for abortions, except in cases of rape and incest or in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. This reflects federal regulations that strictly limit the use of federal money to pay for abortions. If the measure is passed, abortions would no longer be covered by the Oregon health plan, which paid $ 2.4 million for 3,769 abortions in 2016, according to Oregon Health Authority documents.
The campaign needs 117,578 valid signatures for the question to appear on the ballot. Jeff Jimerson, the committee’s director, said 10,650 volunteers had collected more than 150,000 signatures statewide. This exceeded their initial target of 150,000 signatures to account for signatures deemed invalid.
The group “scoured” the list to remove duplicates and errors, Jimerson said, and turned over the approximately 140,000 signatures to the elections office in Salem before the deadline.
“We feel pretty good with that number,” Jimerson said.
Although they filed the documents with the election office to pay the distributors, they did not need to do so, he said. It was a “100% volunteer effort”.
If the initiative meets the signature requirement, it will be the first ballot measure to appear before voters in Oregon without the help of paid signature collectors since 2000 and the first anti-abortion measure since 2006.
The Election Office has one month to validate the signatures and determine if the question can appear on the ballot.
But the committee’s efforts and the “volunteer only” claim could take a hit after several complaints were lodged with the state alleging violations of electoral law.
Oregon Planned Parenthood Advocates filed a complaint on Tuesday claiming that Oregon Life United potentially paid employees to collect signatures without registering as paid signature distributors with the state. This follows a May 15 complaint filed by the Oregon ACLU, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon that the committee failed to report certain campaign contributions. They also raised concerns about paid signature distributors.
Jimerson said the claims of paid distributors are “baseless”. While the two employees in question were being paid, he said, they were being paid for other duties, not for collecting signatures. He added that there is nothing in the rules that says they cannot collect signatures at their own pace. As for campaign contributions, he said he made a mistake which has since been corrected.
“I think it’s really just a desperate attempt to try and steal the signatures of hard-working volunteers,” Jimerson said. “They’re basically trying to make us look bad… [and] prevent voters from voting on it. It’s pretty ugly. “
A broad coalition of abortion rights and progressive organizations, including the groups behind election complaints, announced their “No Cuts to Care” campaign in opposition to the anti-abortion initiative Friday.