Oregon Elections Chief Implements Rule for Chronically Absent Lawmakers
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Oregon Elections Chief Implements Rule for Chronically Absent Lawmakers

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade declared on Tuesday that the 10 Republican senators who racked up more than 10 unexcused absences during a legislative walkout are ineligible to compete for reelection in 2024 in an effort to clear up any misunderstanding regarding their eligibility.

The announcement came in response to concerns raised by Republicans about the interpretation of Measure 113, which was passed by voters in 2022. 

This measure was designed to disqualify lawmakers with more than 10 unexcused absences from seeking reelection in the following term. 

However, the wording of the measure led to ambiguity regarding the consequences of the walkout for boycotting senators.

Griffin-Valade clarified her decision by stating, “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.” 

This move was in accordance with her office’s interpretation of the measure and its alignment with the voters’ expectations.

Senate Republicans, however, have expressed their intent to challenge the decision in court. Senate Republican Minority Leader Tim Knopp contended, “We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections.”

In the backdrop of these developments lies a history of walkouts by GOP lawmakers in Oregon in previous years, prompting voters to approve a measure in November, with nearly 70% support, aimed at curbing such actions. 

This measure dictated that lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences would be disqualified from seeking reelection in the subsequent term.

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The crux of the disagreement stems from the specific wording of the measure, which is now a part of the state constitution. 

It states that disqualification applies to “the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” 

Republicans argue that this implies that those boycotting lawmakers up for reelection in 2024 could still be candidates, as their current terms end in January 2025, with disqualification only taking effect for the 2028 election.

However, Griffin-Valade’s office, through a news release, aimed to debunk this interpretation. 

The release clarified that there was no precedent suggesting that the measure was intended to allow absentee legislators to serve another term after accumulating excessive absences and then being disqualified.

Ultimately, the interpretation of adopted ballot measures is aligned with the intent of the voters, as courts have previously ruled. 

This clarification by the Secretary of State has implications for Senate Republican Minority Leader Tim Knopp, who is among the 10 GOP senators with over 10 unexcused absences during the 2023 legislative session.

Out of these 10 lawmakers, six are in their final legislative session terms, with Bill Hansell among them, having announced his retirement at the end of his term. 

This development marks a significant point of contention in Oregon’s political landscape, with legal challenges likely to shape the outcome moving forward.

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Source: AP News

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