OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The state of Oregon’s highest court has ruled that 10 Republican lawmakers are ineligible to run for reelection after a lengthy walkout during the last legislative session.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the 10 Republican state senators who engaged in a record-long boycott last summer to prevent bills related to abortion access for minors, transgender procedures, medical intervention, and ghost guns from passing are ineligible to run for re-election this year, Fox News reported.
Following the ruling, the Oregon Senate Republican Caucus charged that the “Democrat-stacked supreme court sides with Democrats and union cronies on Measure 113 despite plain language of Constitution.” The caucus also noted that the high court’s decision is “effectively ending the service of 10 Republican senators, who represent one-third of the Oregon Senate.”
The ruling upholds the Democratic Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade’s decision to remove the 10 lawmakers from the ballot in August. Her decision, she said, was based on Measure 113, an initiative passed by voters in 2022, which amended the state constitution to prevent lawmakers with more than 10 unexcused absences from seeking re-election.
The boycott that occurred last year spanned six weeks, marking the longest in the state’s history, and resulted in the postponement of numerous bills. Five lawmakers — Sens. Tim Knopp, Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Dennis Linthicum, and Lynn Findley — filed a lawsuit challenging the secretary of state’s decision. They were part of the group of 10 who exceeded the limit of allowable unexcused absences, Fox News noted.
“We obviously disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling. But more importantly, we are deeply disturbed by the chilling impact this decision will have to crush dissent,” Senate Republican Leader Knopp said Thursday, per Fox.
“I’m disappointed but can’t say I’m surprised that a court of judges appointed solely by Gov. (Kate) Brown and Gov. (Tina) Kotek would rule in favor of political rhetoric rather than their own precedent. The only winners in this case are Democrat politicians and their union backers,” Weber added.
“Every legal mind I’ve heard from, regardless of political leanings, has affirmed that when there is only one interpretation for the plain language of the law, that is final,” Bonham added. Although the language in the Oregon Constitution was clear, the Supreme Court decided that voter intent, which is unmeasurable, takes precedence over the Constitution. There is no justice in a political court.”
Oregon Supreme Court stops 10 GOP lawmakers from running for re-election, siding with Democrat’s ballot ban https://t.co/GH2vSLQiFF
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 2, 2024
This is going to be the new Democrat tactic. Do not defeat your opponent in an election. Prevent them from being in the election.
And then they want to tell you that they are going to save democracy.
The Oregon Supreme Court should be ashamed. https://t.co/8ta77NvjWO
— Carmine Sabia 🇺🇸 🇮🇱 (@CarmineSabia) February 1, 2024
In her decision to disqualify the Republican lawmakers from the ballot, Griffin-Valade instructed her office’s elections division to establish an administrative rule in line with her position.
During the oral arguments presented before the Oregon Supreme Court in December, legal representatives for the senators and the state engaged in a debate over the grammar and syntax of the language that had been appended to the state constitution following the approval of Measure 113.
The amendment says a state lawmaker is not permitted to run “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”
The senators argued that the amendment implied they could pursue re-election, given that a senator’s term concludes in January while elections are conducted in the preceding November. They contended that the penalty wouldn’t be imposed immediately but rather after they had completed another term in office.
Both parties also grappled with minor variations in wording between the language on the actual ballot that voters completed and the text of the measure as presented in the voters’ pamphlet.
The ballot specified that a vote in favor of the measure would disqualify legislators with 10 or more unexcused absences from holding office for the “term following the current term of office.” The term “election” was not included on the ballot, unlike the text of the measure presented in the voters’ pamphlet. The version in the pamphlet was the one ultimately added to the state constitution, Fox News reported.
The state contended that when voters cast a “yes” vote in support of the measure, they intended that legislators with ten or more absences should be prohibited from running after their current term expires.
All parties involved in the lawsuit had sought clarification on this matter before the March 2024 filing deadline for candidates wishing to participate in this year’s election.