PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A federal judge has rejected a request from Oregon Republican state senators who boycotted Congress to allow them to vote after their term ends.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken issued the ruling Wednesday.
Plaintiffs included state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, Rep. Brian Boquist, and Rep. Cedric Hayden. filed a federal lawsuit A constitutional amendment approved by voters last year by a wide margin prohibits lawmakers from seeking re-election after 10 or more unexcused absences.
Each of the three senators was absent more than 10 times during the session. Recorded 6 week strike It paralyzed the 2023 Congress. The boycott stemmed from bills related to abortion, transgender health care, and guns.
Lawmakers sought, among other things, a preliminary injunction to prevent the Secretary of State’s office from enforcing voting disqualifications. Officials removed Linthicum and Boxt from the 2024 ballot in September, according to court filings. Mr. Hayden’s term ends in January 2027.
The senators argued that the strike was a form of political protest protected by the First Amendment.
“The senators were punished simply for exercising their First Amendment rights,” the lawyers said in a court filing.
Ms. Aiken, in her opinion, disagreed with their arguments.
“But these strikes were more than just protests; they were an exercise of public power by the Senate Plaintiffs, aimed at depriving Congress of its authority to conduct business,” she wrote.
“Their subsequent disqualification is the result of Measure 113 working as Oregon voters intended,” she added.
The Oregon State Senate and House of Representatives require two-thirds of members to be present to ensure a quorum and conduct business. In recent years, Republicans have protested Democratic policies. leave parliament and deny a quorum Trying to delay the bill.
The federal lawsuit names Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin Varade and Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner as defendants. The senators alleged that, among other things, Wagner violated their First Amendment right to free expression and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by marking their absences as unexcused. claimed to have done so.
Griffin Varade and Oregon Department of Justice lawyers representing Wagner argued that the First Amendment does not protect lawmakers from refusing to attend Congress.
“Under Oregon law, the absence of a senator has important legal consequences: the Senate cannot act without the presence of two-thirds of the senators required to achieve a quorum.” they wrote in a court filing.
The federal court ruling was issued the day before sentencing. The Oregon Supreme Court heard another challenge to the measure.. During oral arguments Thursday in state Superior Court in Salem, lawyers for another group of Republican state senators argued that confusion over the language of the constitutional amendment would allow the senators whose terms end in January to run in 2024. did.
Secretary of State Griffin Varade is also a defendant in the lawsuit.Earlier this year, she said the senators who are boycotting He will be disqualified from seeking re-election in 2024.. She directed her office’s election division to put in place administrative regulations to clarify the position. He said the rules reflect the intent of voters when they approved the measure last year.
All parties to the lawsuit are asking for clarification on the issue by March 2024, the filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in next year’s elections.