As deadline approaches, Wheeler’s recall campaign takes legal action against town to extend deadline
As the campaign to recall Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler nears its Oct. 6 deadline for collecting signatures, it is once again trying to stay alive, filing a lawsuit against the city after refusing a 90-day extension of the campaign signature collection window. September 24. The campaign asked for the extension two days earlier, on September 22, accusing a summer of heat waves and pandemic restrictions of having chronically low signature counts.
The campaign collected just over 19,500 signatures. They need 48,000 signatures to put the reminder on the November ballot.
The campaign’s legal challenge, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, was first reported by Oregonian Monday afternoon. The campaign shared the trial with WW. The defendants are the City of Portland and the City’s Auditor, Mary Hull Caballero.
The lawsuit alleges the city imposing a 90-day window for collecting signatures, and its subsequent denial of a 90-day extension, violates the campaign’s First Amendment rights.
“Collecting signatures for recall elections is the fundamental political discourse under the First Amendment. The 90 day time limit in RHA 249.875 (1) is zero as applied under the First Amendment due to the onerous burden of getting adequate recall petition signatures, in just 90 days, when from a public health emergency and a global pandemic, during historic warm conditions and during a historic economic contraction that inhibits political contributions such as those that would allow a rapid collection of petition signatures, ”the lawsuit said.
Lawyers Alan Kessler and Juan Chavez represent the campaign in the lawsuit. Kessler co-founded the Political Action Committee that launched the campaign.
The lawsuit challenges the 90-day allotment for collecting signatures for recall efforts. “We think the state’s constitution is clear,” Chavez said in a statement. “Recalls are a right granted to citizens and the legislature cannot impose onerous restrictions on this right, especially in the midst of a pandemic. “
Kessler said in a statement that “the intention of the Oregon Constitution is clear … The drafters could have imposed a time limit, but they did not.” It is not appropriate for city or state officials to place arbitrary limitations on our constitutional right to recall them. “
In the city’s refusal to extend the extension in September, municipal election official Louise Hansen responded that the harshest of the heatwaves had occurred before the campaign’s signature collection window, and that the demands of Social distancing was not in place and large gatherings were not prohibited during the campaign’s 90-day window.
Chavez said the campaign is also seeking a temporary restraining order against the city, for which no court date has yet been set.
Chavez told WW that “Our argument, and this has been accepted by at least one federal court here in Oregon as well as other jurisdictions, is that during a pandemic or a plague this timeline interferes with our rights to petition, requesting relief from the First Amendment. , all that.”
Chavez is referring to a fall 2020 ruling in which the U.S. District Court ruled that an electoral measures campaign was hampered by the state’s COVID-19 protocols and that the 90-day window was unconstitutional to the light of these circumstances. The court ordered the secretary of state to authorize the measure on the ballot without the total number of signatures required. (The Oregon Supreme Court later blocked that decision.)
The city attorney’s office did not respond to WWrequest for comments.