Oregon Republicans Challenge Amendment Barring Lawmakers With Unexcused Absences From Reelection

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon Republican state senators, committees and voters filed a federal lawsuit on Monday challenging a voter-approved amendment that disqualifies lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences from running for reelection.

Sens. Brian Boquist, Cedric Hayden and Dennis Linthicum, all of whom accumulated more than 10 unexcused absences, claim that their disqualification violates their First Amendment rights to speech, freedom of association and free exercise of religion. They additionally allege that the amendment violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

The plaintiffs ask the court to rule that their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated and to deem them eligible to run for reelection. 

The constitutional amendment, which was passed with 68% support from voters in 2022, came after Republican legislators in the state staged walkouts to thwart Democratic proposals in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The walkouts continued in 2023 when Republicans staged a six-week walkout — the longest in walkout state history and second-longest in the history of the United States — holding up the state budget, gun control legislation, measures on abortion access and more. 

Walkouts are a particularly effective tool for obstruction in Oregon because the state unusually requires two-thirds of lawmakers to be present for a quorum.

In August, Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade (D) directed the state’s elections agency to implement an administrative rule enforcing the voter-approved amendment.

This week’s lawsuit comes after five Republican state senators — one of whom also joined the federal case — filed a petition for judicial review in state court back in August challenging the new administrative rule for being inconsistent with the language of the measure passed by voters in 2022. In their petition, the legislators argue that because elections are held in November and their terms are completed in January, any disqualification would be for terms beginning in or after 2029 and 2031 — and not this coming election.

The state case is expected to be heard by the Oregon Supreme Court next month.

Read the federal lawsuit here.

Read about the amendment here. 

Read about the state case here.