Governance

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Legislative Report - September 2022


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Campaign Finance Reform

Cybersecurity, Elections, Public Records, and Privacy

Elections

Public Records and Effective Communications

Public records requests for Elections’ Offices

Redistricting



Governance

By Norman Turrill, Governance Coordinator, and Team

The House Rules Committee did not meet during the Interim Legislative Days and the Senate Rules Committee only met to consider executive appointments. However, other governance areas had interesting developments.


Campaign Finance Reform

The Honest Elections Oregon coalition, of which the LWV of Oregon is a part, has filed two new initiatives for the 2024 general election ballot. Both IP 8 and IP 9 are in the long ballot title process after delivering over 1000 voter signatures to the Secretary of State.


Cybersecurity, Elections, Public Records, and Privacy

By Becky Gladstone

We will be watching election results for how they could affect legislative committee dynamics, with Peter Wong anticipating Oregon Legislature incumbent transitions higher than usual last March. Two 2022 major bills followed here represented extensive collaboration but failed in the 2022 regular session, despite strong or even unanimous passage out of committees. Work groups have continued to meet to refile them for the 2023 session.




Elections

Several bills last session addressed assorted privacy and harassment concerns for elections workers and school board candidates, for example. The 2022 bill did not anticipate protecting voters from harassment, current press. We advocated for standardizing “privacy” categories and reconciling “harassment” references with current statute. Our testimony described applying broader protections. We anticipate improvement and have reached out to SoS staff who are not yet prepared to collaborate.

HB 4144 Enrolled (2022) We advocated for refinements to this elections’ worker protection bill during deliberations and for collaboration before the 2023 session. See 2022 LWVOR testimony.



Public Records and Effective Communications

We did not see legislation last session addressing effective communication, a concern often expressed here. The League encourages informed and active participation in government. Volumes of legislative testimony, and emails and voicemails sent to legislative staff, substantially identical, have been increasing over the past few years. This can make serving constituents more difficult since they must reach out using the same crowded communications channels and staff must sift through all message traffic. We need to clarify that legislative debates are not won by larger messaging volumes; they are not the same as winning a majority of votes. Legislative staff strive to acknowledge all communications respectfully. Influencing legislative decisions should be based on careful consideration of facts. This can be challenged by needing to process volumes of communications that do not effectively develop new considerations. A related concern was mentioned last week in the PRAC, Public Records Advisory Council, in the press, and OPB, citing a SoS staff funding request for a full FTE for public records.


Public records requests for Elections’ Offices

Elections offices got a “proliferation of public records requests”. The PRAC discussed filling requests serving the public interest and the impact on staffing workload. One suggested that denial could be considered if the workload impact conflicts with the public interest.

Processing public records requests remains a challenge, despite 2017 legislative improvements, with with HB 481 Enrolled, (League testimony), for public records access policy, HB 2101 Enrolled, (League testimony) for public records disclosure exemption review, and SB 106 Enrolled (League testimony), establishing a Public Records Advocate and Council.

All public records requests must be reviewed with respect to more than 600 specific disclosure exemptions, for example for minors’ privacy or during ongoing litigation. This can require legal review with resultant charges reflected in fees to requesters, usually discounted in an effort to maintain records transparency. Public records requests most often incur costs not covered by fees charged to requesters.

With a proliferation of public records requests, recommendations include:

  • Develop data retention policies. Currently, undefined liability concerns have driven unlimited defensive records retention, both in volume and duration. Cybersecurity experts to the JCLIMT have urged for retention policy development, to address likely unwieldy volumes of data, with challenging organizing and access, adding cybersecurity vulnerability.

  • Advice to focus open-ended requests. Suggest keyword searches, relevant date ranges.

  • Explain records request costs and fees. Each public record is held for “no release” review by up to 600 disclosure exemptions. Requests are contracted out for legal review, estimated at $200-$250 / hour. An estimated cost may be $900. Requesters may not realize they are incurring costs and may be liable to pay for them.

  • Maintain focus on problems we’re trying to solve. Balance the need for transparency to avert malfeasance, with guardrails to allow business to proceed. A reference in the LWVOR Privacy and Cybersecurity study, “Should We See Everything A Cop Sees?” described public records attacks and management challenges.



Redistricting

By Norman Turrill

The People Not Politicians coalition, in which the LWV of Oregon is a leader, has filed two new initiatives for the 2024 general election ballot. IP 13 and IP 14 have both recently delivered the required 1000 voter signatures to the Secretary of State. We should know by Oct. 5 and 6 if they had enough valid signatures to begin the long ballot title process.