Oregon's History with Ballot Slogans

Ballot slogans were a legendary part of Oregon politics and provide a time capsule of issues from the past – and some that are still roiling. [Source: The Oregonian 1946]

Ballot slogans were a legendary part of Oregon politics and provide a time capsule of issues from the past – and some that are still roiling. [Source: The Oregonian 1946]

In a story that proves, among other things, that concise, clear writing was always in style, The Washington Post examines the history of ballot slogans in Oregon. It was a bit like Twitter without the computer.

Called “campaign capsules” by The Oregonian in 1946, ballot slogans were 12 words that candidates could have printed on official ballots, right next to the their name.

Campaign slogans ranged from pithy to pitiful. Some simply wanted you to know they were “Not a lawyer.” Others broke out the Thesaurus to let you know alliteratively they were for “Proper places for people, not pachyderm palaces.”

Quoting past presidents and political leaders was as popular then as now, though I haven’t heard anyone quote FDR lately. But maybe that’s because Eleanor Roosevelt asked them to stop. 

Many sound like something you might have read recently. “Say NO to rat-poison fluorine in your drinking water” or “Oregon still needs a doctor in the House.” There were even ballot slogans campaigning against ballot slogans.

Then as now, one journalist noted that “most of the slogans are dull and uninspired.”

According to Jamie Fuller, ballot slogans appeared on Oregon ballots from 1909 until 1983, when the state legislature abolished them – arguments against them included saving money on ballot printing and the law that precludes candidates from campaigning at polling locations.

Speculation on what the current crop of candidates would have used for a ballot slogan might be a fun way to pass the time on election day. Dennis Richardson wants to Reboot, Reform, Restore – that would fit nicely, with room left over for a jibe about CoverOregon.