Some years, the ballot seems almost dull – not much of interest, not many intelligent choices.
However, from Washington D.C. to the halls of the state Capitol in Salem, this year's elections are ready for the history books.
The many ballot measures Oregon voters face are rigged with tricky language and unexplained long-term consequences, demanding a closer look.
By contract, many of the most heated candidate races of this season played out during the primary elections this year, as incumbent city commissioners and state legislators were able to win 51 percent of the electorate and avoid a runoff.
The most heated primary election in the nation was for the Democratic nomination for president, but in a history-making precedent, Sen. Barack Obama won the nod and squares off against Republican Sen. John McCain.
In the races for Oregon Congressional seats, many incumbents are challenged by less experienced candidates who appear to be waging lackluster campaigns.
One exception is in the U.S. Senate seat contested by Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democrat Jeff Merkley, former Oregon Speaker of the House – their race is closely watched nationwide.
Another race of interest is that of House of Representatives Fifth District candidates Kurt Schrader and Republican Mike Erickson.
Also running for re-election in Congress are First Congressional District Democrat David Wu, Third District Democrat Earl Blumenauer.
The state legislative races feature many incumbent candidates, including Sen. Margaret Carter of District 22, who runs unopposed.
In House District 45, Democrat Michael Dembrow, a community college English teacher, faces perennial conservative activist Jim Karlock, a Republican who opposes public transportation and development.
In state races, the Treasurer seat is contested by Republican Allen Alley and Democrat Ben Westlund; the Secretary of State office is a runoff between Democrat Kate Brown and Republican Rick Dancer.
In the Attorney General election, both Democrats and Republicans endorse law professor John Kroger.
Locally, for City of Portland Commissioner, Position No. 1 the race is between longtime civic activist Amanda Fritz and nonprofit organization founder Charles Lewis.
For Multnomah County Commission, District 3, former state legislator, prosecuting attorney, and county official Judy Shiprack squares off against Mike Delman, former Chief of Staff to former County Commissioner Gary Hansen.
In the runoff for Multnomah County Commission, District 4, Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso is running against Diane McKeel, West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce executive director.
In the race for Multnomah County Sheriff, incumbent Bob Skipper faces Sheriff's Sergeant Muhammad Ra'oof, a 29-year veteran of the force.
Oregon State Ballot Measures
Oregon's voters will have a strong hand in deciding their state's future this election.
There are 10 statewide ballot measures that will affect prison populations, education priorities and state funding, among others.
Find more information on every measure visit our website, www.theskanner.com, or turn to The Skanner next week.
Measure 56 cancels the "double majority" rule for property tax elections in midterm election years. Measure 56 would drop that rule, and a measure would pass with a simple majority of "yes" votes.
Measure 57 increases penalties for drug, theft and other repeat crimes. Crafted by the legislature in response to another measure – Kevin Mannix's Measure 61 – both measures are anti-crime measures, although their effects and strategies are comparatively different. If both measures pass, the one with the most votes will win.
Measure 57 increases penalties for trafficking in certain drugs – methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), and cocaine – and also increase penalities for aggravated theft charges when the victim is elderly, and repeat offenses for identity theft, burglary, and a number of other fraud and theft charges.
Unlike Measure 61, this measure would require treatment for certain addicted offenders. It would give judges discretion to impose penalties depending on the individual circumstances of the crime. The measure is expected to cost $9 million a year the first year and $143 million a year after the fourth year. $314 million will have to be borrowed for new prison space, according to the secretary of state's office
Measure 61 imposes strict mandatory minimum sentences on first-time offenders for certain drug, burglary and identity theft crimes. Persons who are convicted of delivery/manufacturing cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine will automatically be sentenced to 30 months to three years in prison. Other mandatory minimum sentences include: Burglary in the second degree: 14 months; theft in the first degree: 14 months; motor vehicle theft: 18 months; forgery in the first degree: 18 months; Burglary in the first degree: 36 months; identity theft: 36 months. Measure 61 will require the state to borrow about $1.3 billion to build more prisons and also cost between $8 million to $10 million in the first, increasing to $274 million a year after the fourth year, according to the secretary of state's office.
Measure 58 limits the amount of time non-English speaking students are given bilingual instruction. The Secretary of State's office estimates that the program would cost an additional $203 million to create the new immersion programs. The number is based on a similar measure in Arizona that cost an additional $2,741 per student per year.
Measure 59 makes federal income taxes fully deductible on state returns, allowing Oregon state tax payers to deduct an unlimited amount of money from their federal income tax. It does not apply to corporate excise or income taxes.
Currently, payroll taxes pay 89 percent of the general fund. If this measure passes, there will be a $1.3 billion reduction in income over the next two years. The measure does not provide solutions on lost revenue.
Measure 60 makes teacher compensation based on classroom performance. In one sense, the measure is fairly straightforward – instead of basing teachers salary on a combination of degrees attained and experience in the classroom, administrators would be required to base it on classroom performance. But it's also vague and doesn't say how to measure classroom performance, nor how to pay for a system of measurements.
Measure 61 — please see explanation under Measure 57, a competing measure.
Measure 62 diverts 15 percent of lottery profits for anti-crime funding, diverting money away from job creation, economic development and public education.
Measure 63 would make an exemption for building permits on some improvements to residential real and farm property. If a building add-on, remodel or other improvement costs under $35,000 in that year, no permit is needed. This measure is estimated to reduce local government revenue and spending from $4 million to $8 million a year.
Measure 64 prohibits public employees from voluntarily using paycheck deductions for organizations that use all or part of those funds for political purposes. This measure could have far-reaching impacts on the ability of many kinds of charities to raise money.
Measure 65 abolishes the "party primary" in primary elections. It would establish one all-party primary in which all candidates would partake (excluding presidential races). Then, only the top two vote getters would move on to the general election. It would mean less choice in the general election and more choice during the primary.