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Two candidates for the position of Oregon labor commissioner thought they would meet at the May 15 primary election, but recently found out the election will be decided at the Nov. 6 general election.

That doesn’t seem to bother incumbent Democrat Brad Avakian, but resulted in a lawsuit by Republican Bruce Starr against Secretary of State Kate Brown.

A law approved by the 2009 Legislature aimed at a number of election issues  — including the labor commissioner’s race — but it wasn’t obvious that if there were only two candidates for the position they would meet in November instead of May. At least the two candidates didn’t understand it that way.

Starr sued Brown, but lost. He contended she had acted unfairly in the matter. Republicans believe a May election would help them because the hotly contested Republican presidential nomination would bring out Republican voters.

Brown said she followed the law, and the court agreed.

It was clear, though, both candidates were operating under a wrong interpretation of election law changes at a time when the Secretary of State’s office knew the proper date. Surely the duties of the state’s chief elections officer go beyond just staving off technical violations of the law. If it isn’t the Secretary of State’s responsibility to act on such a problem in a timely fashion, whose responsibility is it?