Handicapping Oregon's Ballot Measures

Oregonians will receive mail-in ballots any day and it never hurts to have some of the races handicapped by pollsters.

Oregonians will receive mail-in ballots any day and it never hurts to have some of the races handicapped by pollsters.

Oregon mail-in ballots will begin to arrive any day, so it's timely for voters to get the equivalent of a horserace handicap on some of the measures they will decide November 4.

Oregon Public Broadcasting shared results of recent statewide polling on four ballot measures, which shows two of them have tenuous leads, one is an election-day longshot and the other is, as they say in politics, a "dog that won't hunt."

The measures with the best poll numbers at this important pre-vote moment are the ones to legalize marijuana and require labeling for genetically modified foods. The measures that have underwater polling numbers would allow Oregonians who can't document their legal residence to obtain a driver card and permit state bonding for college scholarships.

In a separate poll obtained by The Oregonian — and commissioned by opponents — the measure to establish a "top-two primary" looks as if it will have a tough time passing.

The poll that counts is the final tally of the votes cast, but it's always interesting to know a little about the horses and how they are handicapped before the race starts.

Measure 91, which would allow adult Oregonians to grow, possess and sell marijuana under state regulation, attracts 52 percent of "likely voters" who say they are certain or leaning toward support. Forty-one percent are definitely or leaning against, with just 7 percent undecided.

Measure 92, the GMO labeling initiative, earns 49 percent certain or likely "yes" votes as opposed to 41 percent certain or likely "no" votes. What gives supporters hope is that almost 10 percent of the people leaning "no" are uncertain how they actually will vote. Another 7 or 8 percent are undecided. Campaigns hate that kind of late-stage electoral fluidity.

Measure 86, allowing state bonding for college and career training scholarships, has gained less than 30 percent of firm support. More than 30 percent say they are certain to oppose it. Around 25 percent of respondents were undecided, which mean the measure still has a flicker of life. But that much indecision this late is usually not a good sign.

Measure 88, a referendum on driver cards, looks doomed, based on the poll that indicates 60 percent of respondents are certain or likely to vote "no." More than 50 percent list themselves as "certain" opponents. There is nothing on the horizon likely to turn around these numbers.

Last month, The Oregonian reported Measure 90, the top-two primary initiative, has slipped to only 34 percent support against 43 percent opposed. The Measure 90 campaign manager said the initiative's early polling peak was just 45 percent. Political wisdom says measures should start out with majority support — some even argue supermajority-level support — to have a chance at passage after a campaign.