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The Will of the Voters

April 10, 2013 – Dominic Aiello, President

Respect the will of the voters! This is a standard argument against better predator management in Oregon. What does it mean and who is saying it?

To better understand the issue, let’s look into Oregon’s history for a moment. In 1994, the Humane Society of the United States successfully passed Measure 18 which banned the use of hounds to hunt bear, cougar and banned the use of bait for bears. It passed by a narrow margin of 51.79% in favor to 48.21% opposed. In 1996 an attempt was made to repeal Measure 18, but failed overwhelmingly by 57.2% opposed and 42.8% in favor

Fast forward 19 years after Measure 18 initially passed. This legislative session, like others before it, has had bills introduced to reverse Measure 18. House Bill 2624 & House Bill 3395 would allow the return of hounds.

Should legislators reverse, at least in part, the will of the voters? It sounds reasonable in theory to respect the previous votes. However, like many aspects of life, the issue isn’t quite as black and white like some may lead you to believe.

On April 2nd, 2013 at a hearing for House Bill 2624 & House Bill 3395, Representative David Gomberg testified, “We talk an awful lot about the will of the voters here in the building…and I think the voters have spoken on the cougar issue more than once.”

Representative Krieger, a member of the committee hearing testimony, responded by saying “We’re looking right now at changing Measure 11 which is against the will of the voters and people have voted out daylight savings time I don’t know how many times. The people have voted out a sales tax I think 11 times but people still talk about that…issues come up over time as circumstances change.”

So how valid is “the will of the voters” 19 years later? Well, let’s look at who is saying this outside of the legislation. Scott Beckstead, Oregon Director of the Humane Society of the United States, testified the same day, “You are being asked to overturn the will of the voters”. However, in 2013 The Humane Society of the United States introduced Senate Bill 494 which proposes banning, in part, the trapping of wildlife in Oregon. What I find interesting about Scott’s comment and Senate Bill 494 is that the voters in Oregon have twice rejected trapping bans, in 1980 and 2000. Is Scott really interested in protecting the will of the voters or is he interested in protecting the agenda of The Humane Society of the United States? I think the answer is pretty clear.

In closing, Measure 18 passed by 43,501 votes. If you remove Multnomah County, the county least likely to have human versus cougar conflicts, Measure 18 would have failed by 111,606 votes. I personally believe the real question should be: Does one county, which has little to no impact by the decision, be the deciding factor for the rest of the state? I don’t believe it should. House Bill 2624 allows the voters of each county to determine if they would like to utilize hounds, instead of Multnomah County deciding for the rest of the state.


Dominic Aiello

Vice President

Oregon Outdoor Council