Salem, OR—Today, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade directed the Oregon Elections Division to implement an administrative rule, providing guidance to candidates on Measure 113. The rule clarifies that Measure 113 disqualifies legislators with 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 legislative session from running for legislative seats in the 2024 election. This interpretation is consistent with legal advice provided to the Secretary of State by the Oregon Department of Justice.
“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,” said Secretary Griffin-Valade. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”
Measure 113 states that 10 or more unexcused absences “shall disqualify the member from holding office as a Senator or Representative for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” Some have suggested this language means a Senator who accumulated disqualifying absences in 2023 would be able to run in 2024 but be prohibited from running in 2028.
The courts, however, 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.
There are numerous materials supporting this interpretation. For example, the explanatory statement for Measure 113 in the voters’ pamphlet says the Measure disqualifies the legislator “from holding term of office after the legislator’s current term ends.” The Ballot Title states the Measure disqualifies the legislator from holding the “next term of office.” The Result of a “Yes” vote statement similarly provides that the legislator is disqualified from holding the “term following current term of office.”
Contemporaneous news reports are also consistent. For example, the Oregonian wrote on November 8, 2022 that legislators who run afoul of the measure “will be disallowed from serving in the Legislature during the subsequent term.” Similarly, the Lebanon Local News wrote in all caps that the measure would “BAN LEGISLATORS WITH 10 UNEXCUSED ABSENCES FROM SERVING NEXT TERM.” Arguments from the measure’s proponents also support this reading.
The Secretary found no suggestion prior to enactment – in the voters’ pamphlet, media, or otherwise – that the measure was understood or intended to allow absent legislators to serve an additional term after accumulating too many absences, and then be disqualified the term after that.
Voters intended the measure to prohibit legislators from holding the next term in office, and the Secretary has chosen to uphold the voters’ intent and apply Measure 113 to the 2024 election.