The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that 10 GOP state senators cannot run for reelection after they refused to attend Senate sessions for about six weeks out of protest last year in an attempt to stall Democratic-backed bills.
The court ruling upholds a secretary of state decision to keep the lawmakers off 2024 ballots, citing a 2022 referendum that bars lawmakers from seeking reelection if they have more than 10 unexcused absences.
The six-week boycott of the session stopped work and prevented voting, the longest such freeze in the state’s history. The absent lawmakers demanded legislative concessions in exchange for their return.
Republicans control a minority of the state Senate, 12 of the body’s 30 seats. By walking out, the Senate could not reach a quorum and conduct votes.
Five of the lawmakers challenged the secretary of state decision, arguing that the specific wording of the 2022 referendum should allow them one more term before being barred from office.
Court arguments focused on the grammar of the referendum, with each party arguing over when the election ban would take place.
The constitutional amendment says a lawmaker is not allowed to run “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” The lawmakers argued that would let them run again, as the election is held before the end of their terms, with the secretary of state and ultimately the state Supreme Court disagreeing.
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The ballot referendum passed by a wide margin after similar GOP walkouts in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The senators opposed the ruling in a statement acquired by The Associated Press.
“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,” said state Sen. Tim Knopp, the chamber’s Republican minority leader.