The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday barred 10 Republican state senators from seeking reelection after they staged a walkout of a legislative session last year.
The court upheld the decision of Oregon’s secretary of state to disqualify the senators who staged a six-week boycott to deny a quorum for the legislature to pass Democratic legislation on abortion, transgender issues, and other topics, Politico reported. Under Measure 113, which voters approved in 2022, legislators who had 10 or more unexcused absences may not run for reelection. The amendment went on the ballot after Republicans walked out in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Their walkout in 2023 was the longest on record.
Attorneys quibbled over whether the language in the measure meant that the senators could run for one more term, as their attorneys argued, or it meant that they were finished after their current term, as the state interpreted it. Also at issue were discrepancies between the text of the measure on a voter pamphlet the state released and the text that appeared on the ballot. The senators argued that the meaning of the measure was ambiguous when voters approved it.
Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the secretary’s interpretation, writing that “the ballot title and the voters’ pamphlet expressly and repeatedly informed voters that the disqualification would occur immediately following the legislator’s current term,” according to the local ABC affiliate, KATU.
The senators also argued that the disqualification violated their First Amendment rights, which the court likewise rejected, ruling that the boycott represented an exercise of power rather than a simple protest, the Associated Press reported.
One piece of legislation over which the senators walked out would have allowed doctors to perform abortions on minors without notifying their parents. The legislators ended the walkout after Democrats made concessions on that and other provisions of the bill.
The State of Oregon made news in December when a task force, which Gov. Tina Kotek (D.) co-chairs, recommended cracking down on drugs, especially fentanyl, in Portland and increasing police presence in the city.