The effort to recall four county commissioners ended Monday evening with the chief petitioner bellyaching that the system isn't fair. Ever since Multnomah County announced its policy change allowing same-sex marriages, John Belgarde has been trying to recall four out of the five elected commissioners. To recall commissioner Diane Linn, 36,786 signatures were due Monday at 5 pm. To recall Lisa Naito, 8,296 were due at the same time. (Because Naito represents a smaller region, fewer signatures were required.)

But instead of turning in signature sheets, Belgarde tossed in the towel, saying that the election division had changed the rules on him at the last minute.

"It's not fair," Belgarde said at a press conference. "This literally chops our legs out from under us."

Belgarde, who also serves as the executive director for the Christian Coalition, explained that the "new" requirements demand strict adherence to a sign-and-date rule. Under these rules, petitioners must identify what day a person signed the petition. Belgarde said that his volunteer signature gatherers had screwed up a few hundred sheets by stamping them with the wrong date, but had corrected their mistakes by crossing out the date and initialing the changes.

Belgarde claims they would have had enough signatures to force a recall vote on Linn and Naito, but that they "stopped counting once we learned about the new rule."

However, election officials are baffled at how Belgarde could have misunderstood the rules. The laws have been on the books for two years as a "temporary rule" but were made official and permanent this April.

This is also not Belgarde's first tangle with election rules. Last year, Belgarde tried to spearhead a recall effort against Mayor Vera Katz. That signature drive also failed and, in the process, Belgarde violated several election laws. He has yet to pay fines due on those violations.

Belgarde says he will now wait until after the November elections before restarting recall efforts against Linn and Serena Cruz.

Meanwhile, Belgarde's efforts to bring about a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriages continue. His group has been hanging around churches on the weekends gathering signatures. They have three weeks to pick up more than 100,000 valid signatures. Belgarde has refused to answer questions about whether using churches for partisan political purposes violates their tax-exempt status.