Current Events: The Oregon Supreme Court & Disqualified Legislators

On November 8, 2022 sixty eight percent (68%) of voters in Oregon approved ballot Measure 113. The ballot measure, now memorialized as Article IV, Section 15 in the Oregon State Constitution, makes legislators ineligible to be re-elected to a subsequent term if they accrue ten (10) or more unexcused absences during a legislative session. This measure sought to curtail a legislative tactic that both Oregon Republicans and Democrats have used in the past to block the passage of legislation when they were in the minority party in the legislature. The lawmakers would walk out of legislative sessions, ensuring that a quorum, the minimum number of members required to conduct official business, could not be met, and bills could not be passed. Oregon is only one of four states in the U.S. that defines quorum as two-thirds of members, which typically means that both majority and minority party members must be in attendance for official work to be done.

Following the passage of Measure 113, all but two members of the Republican Senate caucus in Oregon walked out of legislative session on May 3, 2023, preventing quorum and any bills from passing the State Senate. The Republican Senate walkout lasted 43 days, ending on June 15th, making it the longest walkout in Oregon’s history. In August, 2023 the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced that it intended to disqualify any senators who hit the ten (10) unexcused absence limit from being on the ballot in subsequent elections. In defiance of the Secretary of State’s declaration, a number of Republican State Senators vowed to continue running their campaigns and contested the language of Measure 113 in the courts. 

In October, 2022 the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to take up the case through a fast-track process, and to rule on the issue prior to the March 12, 2024 deadline for candidates to file to appear on the 2024 ballot. Months later, on February 1, 2024, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against the group of Republican State Senators who challenged the Measure 113 language in court. When determining the language of Measure 113, the Oregon Supreme Court noted in their opinion, “We… seek to understand how voters would have understood the text in light of the other materials that accompanied it. And those other materials expressly and uniformly informed voters that the amendment would apply to a legislator’s immediate next terms of office, indicating that the voters so understood and intended that meaning.”

This week’s Current Events resources examines the history and controversy around Measure 113 and legislator walkouts. The resources shared provide information and context around Measure 113, the concept of majority rule/minority rights, and the legislative process.


Essential Questions:

  • How are minority parties protected in the legislative process?
  • What are the expectations constituents have of their elected representatives?
  • Why is the language of a law so important to its enforcement?
  • What what extent, if any, is compromise necessary during the lawmaking process? 
  • How does checks and balances play a role in the Measure 113 legal battle? 
  • In your opinion, what, if any, rules or laws should be in place to ensure lawmakers do not ‘walkout’ of legislative sessions?
  • In your opinion, does Measure 113 accomplish what it was set out to address? Explain.





How Measure 113 aims to end legislative walkouts, Policy for the People, Oregon Center for Public Policy the People

A political lightning round ahead of the Legislative session, OPB Politics Now, OPB, NPR, February 2, 2024

Minority Consent: The Elements of Democracy, Center for Civic Education

GOP lawmakers in Oregon continue walkouts, despite Democrats’s attempts to end them, Weekend Edition Sunday, October 1, 2023

Background Resources:

Oregon Measure 113, Exclusion from Re-election for Legislative Absenteeism Initiative (2022), Ballotpedia

Noteworthy state legislative walkouts, Ballotpedia

Knopp v. Griffin-Valade 372 Or 1 (SC S070456), State of Oregon Law Library

What is a Quorum?, Oregon Legislature Citizen Engagement

Measure 113, Oregon Secretary of State Office

About the Oregon Judicial Department, Oregon Judicial Branch

Recent Articles:

Oregon Supreme Court bars Republican senators who participated in walkout from reelection, Oregon Capital Insider, February 1, 2024

10 GOP state senators who staged long walkout can’t run for reelection, Oregon high court says, PBS News Hour, February 1, 2024

Oregon high court says GOP lawmakers who staged walkout can’t run for re-election, NBC News, February 1, 2024

Republican senators sue Oregon secretary of state, saying walkout doesn’t block them from seeking reelection, OPB, August 25, 2023

After GOP walkout, Oregon lawmakers reconvene to focus on housing and drugs, AP, February 5, 2024

‘Thank God they walked out’: Oregon’s partisan divide highlights heightened animosity in statehouses, Politico, December 13, 2023

Recent Editorials:

Oregon needs to change quorum rules to stop walkouts, The Bend Bulletin, February 2, 2024

Oregon Republicans’ Self-Destructive Culture-War Walkout, Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 24, 2023

Oregon Supreme Court upholds measure 113, deeming ten state senators ineligible for reelection, Tillamook Headlight Herald, February 1, 2024

Lesson Plans:

Bell Ringer: Minority Rights and Majority Rule, CSPAN-Classroom

Being an Informed Voter, Center for Civic Education

Lesson 1: The majority always rules?, Living Democracy

Majorities Rule!, The Democracy Project

Majority Rule Minority Rights, Learning to Give

Appreciating Democracy, Washington State Legislature & Eagleton Institute of Politics of Rutgers University

Resources for Younger Students:

There Ought to be a Law, Oregon State Capitol

Oregon’s Government, Kids Discover

Compromise: Activity, Teach Simple


Published February 2024