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Oregon Republicans Who Skipped Town to Block Votes Will Be Barred From Office

The Oregon secretary of state announced her intention to enforce a measure passed by voters last fall.

State Senate Chamber of the Oregon state capitol building is pictured in Salem, Oregon.

For years, Oregon Republicans have been blocking bill after bill in the state legislature through a drastic tactic: skipping town to break quorum. Now, Oregon officials are saying that the Republicans who have obstructed votes this way at least 10 times are going to be barred from running for re-election in 2024.

This week, Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade confirmed that she intends to enforce Measure 113, which disqualifies lawmakers with more than 10 unexcused absences from serving in office next term. The measure passed in 2022 by a landslide, with nearly 70 percent of voters in favor.

“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session,” Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”

Griffin-Valade is directing the Oregon Elections Division to issue guidance to enforce Measure 113, and says that the directive is consistent with guidance from the Oregon Department of Justice.

Republicans have been running away from the Democratically-controlled state legislature every year since 2019 to block bills from passing.

In 2019, Republicans fled the state and went into hiding to avoid being brought back to the legislature by Oregon police, with one lawmaker making threats to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” over a climate bill. And, this May, Republicans walked out for six weeks, grinding the state Senate to a halt over Democratic proposals to protect abortion and trans rights, ultimately reaching a deal to kill or modify a slate of bills — essentially implementing minority rule.

Almost every Republican senator and one independent has racked up enough absences to be disqualified under Griffin-Valade’s enforcement, representing 10 of the 12 total GOP lawmakers in the state Senate. But Republicans are vowing to fight the action, saying that the measure is poorly worded. State Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp has threatened to sue, saying that Griffin-Valade is trampling on the “free speech of the minority.”

The secretary of state pushed back on criticisms, saying that the text of the measure was clear in its intent.

The courts “have emphasized that the text of adopted ballot measures must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the voters’ intent. And voters universally understood Measure 113 would prohibit legislators who accumulate 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session from holding office in the immediate next term,” read a press release from the secretary of state’s office.

The continued use of this stunt is a show of conservatives’ willingness to resort to extremist tactics to force adoption of their beliefs — perhaps similarly to conservatives in Congress — even when it goes in the face of majority rule and the spirit of democracy, as commentators have noted.

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