Ten Republican state senators from Oregon who organized a record-breaking walkout last year to block legislation pertaining to abortion, transgender health care, and gun rights are not eligible to seek for office again, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
The ruling sustains the secretary of state’s decision to remove the senators from the ballot in accordance with a law passed by the people to prevent boycotts of this kind. Voters approved Measure 113 in 2022, which changed the state constitution to prevent legislators from being re-elected if they have more than ten unexcused absences, according to the AP.
The boycott of the previous year crippled the legislative session, blocking hundreds of measures, and lasted for six weeks, the longest in state history. Out of the ten Republican senators who missed more than ten votes, five filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state’s decision. Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp was one of them, saying, “We definitely disagree with the Supreme Court’s verdict.” More significantly, however, we are very alarmed by the decision’s stifling effect on dissent. Rob Wagner, the Democratic president of the Senate, applauded the ruling. He issued a statement saying, “Today’s decision by the Oregon Supreme Court means that lawmakers and the public now know how Measure 113 will be administered, and that is good for our state.”
According to the AP, political advocacy organizations that supported Measure 113 had similar responses. Alejandro Queral of the Oregon Center for Public Policy said, “Walkouts enable a very small number of politicians to reject the will of the majority, and that is to the harm of our democracy.”
Before the March filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this year’s election, all parties to the lawsuit had requested clarification about the effective date of the ineligibility. Following Republican walkouts in the legislature in 2019, 2020, and 2021, Oregon voters supported the proposal by a large plurality.