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Oregon Supreme Court Decides Republican Legislators Who Staged Walkout Are Ineligible for Reelection

The Oregon Supreme Court delivered a verdict on Thursday, stating that 10 Republican state senators are ineligible for future elections due to their deliberate absence from Senate sessions for an extended period last year. This walkout was a protest tactic aimed at obstructing the passage of legislation supported by Democrats.

This judicial decision affirms the Secretary of State’s earlier resolution to exclude these legislators from the electoral slate for 2024. This is in line with a directive from a 2022 public vote, which prohibits legislators from running for re-election if they have accumulated more than 10 unexcused absences.

This strategic absence by the senators brought legislative activities to a standstill for six weeks, marking an unprecedented pause in the state’s legislative history. The senators had sought policy compromises as a precondition for ending their boycott.

The Republican minority, holding 12 seats in the 30-member state Senate, effectively blocked the Senate from achieving the quorum needed for voting by staging the walkout.

A challenge to the Secretary of State’s ruling was put forth by five of the senators in question. They argued that the language of the 2022 public measure should permit them an additional term before disqualification.

The legal discourse focused on interpreting the phrasing of the measure, particularly regarding the timing of the enforced ban on elections. The measure states that a legislator cannot run “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” The senators argued this wording implied they could run for one more term since elections are held before their current terms end. However, this interpretation was contested by the Secretary of State and ultimately rejected by the Oregon Supreme Court.

The public measure, passed by a significant majority, was a response to similar Republican walkouts in previous years.

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the senators issued a statement through The Associated Press. Senator Tim Knopp, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, expressed their disagreement with the decision and concern over its potential to deter political dissent.