Stories about Oregon

Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif dies

Oregon state Rep. Gary Leif (R) died on July 22, creating a vacancy in the state legislature.

County commissioners from Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties had originally appointed Leif to the legislature on April 30, 2018, replacing former Rep. Dallas Heard (R) upon Heard’s appointment to the Oregon Senate. Leif defeated Charles Lee (D) to win re-election to the state House in 2020, 72% to 28%. Before his appointment to the legislature, Leif served as a county commissioner in Douglas County.  

If there is a vacancy in the Oregon House, the board of county commissioners representing the vacant district must select a replacement. The board must consider three candidates who are members of the party that last controlled the district and must select a replacement within 30 days. The new representative will serve the remainder of Leif’s term, which expires in January 2023.

As of July 26, three vacancies have occurred in the Oregon House during 2021. On a national level, there have been 67 state legislative vacancies in 35 states this year. Forty-seven of those vacancies have been filled.

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Mayoral recall effort underway in Portland, Oregon

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is facing a recall effort after a group filed petitions on July 1, with volunteers starting to gather signatures on July 9. Petitioners have until Sept. 29 to submit at least 47,788 valid signatures to put the recall election on the ballot.

The recall effort is organized by Total Recall PDX. Audrey Caines was hired in June to work as campaign manager for the recall, and Melissa Blount was named chief petitioner. Petition language cites the following as reasons for a recall election: “Portlanders are ready to recover and we can’t afford to waste the next three-and-a-half years. Portland deserves better than an uninspiring mayor reelected with less than 47% of the vote. We deserve a mayor who was elected without illegally loaning his campaign $150,000 of his personal money. Our neighbors, families, and businesses deserve a mayor who prioritizes their safety and well-being.”

Wheeler was elected as mayor of Portland in 2016 with 54% of the vote, and he won re-election in 2020 with 46% of the vote. The mayor’s office had not issued a statement regarding the recall effort as of July 9, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election in Oregon is 15% of the total number of votes cast in the public officer’s electoral district for all candidates for governor at the last election at which a candidate for governor was elected to a full term. Signatures are required to be turned in no later than 90 days after the petition is filed.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for that point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Pennsylvania, Oregon end statewide face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 25 and July 1.

Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam lifted the statewide mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on June 28. In accordance with CDC guidelines, vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) ended the statewide mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on June 30. Masks are still required on public transportation, at public transportation hubs, and at medical facilities.

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 8 states had statewide mask orders. All 8 states have Democratic governors. Seven of the eight states exempted fully vaccinated people from most requirements.

Of the 31 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 16 have Republican governors, and 15 have Democratic governors. Twenty-eight states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.

Oregon voters to decide on removing slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment from state constitution in 2022

On June 24, the Oregon State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters in November 2022 that would remove language that allows slavery or involuntary servitude for duly convicted individuals. The amendment would also add language to authorize an Oregon court or a probation or parole agency to order alternatives to incarceration for a convicted individual as part of their sentencing.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the Oregon State Senate and the Oregon House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR 10) on January 11, 2021. It was sponsored by Democratic Senators James Manning Jr., Lew Frederick, and Rob Wagner. On April 14, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 10 in a vote of 27-2 with one excused. On June 22, 2021, the state House passed SJR 10 with amendments in a vote of 51-7 with one excused. On June 24, 2021, the Senate concurred with the House amendments by a vote of 25-4 with one excused.

Oregonians Against Slavery Involuntary Servitude (OASIS) is leading the campaign in support of the amendment. They said, “SJR 10 would remove the exception of slavery and involuntary servitude from the Oregon State Constitution and brings us one step closer to a more just and equitable state and world. By changing this language, Oregon would do away with the antiquated racist legacy of slavery in our State’s most important document.”

In November 2022, Tennessee voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment to remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. It would be replaced with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.”

In 2020, voters in Nebraska and Utah voted to remove language from their respective constitutions that allowed the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. Nebraska Amendment 1 was approved by a margin of 68.23% to 31.77%. Utah Constitutional Amendment C was approved by a margin of 80.48% to 19.52%. Voters in Colorado approved a similar amendment in 2018 after rejecting the proposal in 2016.

Ten states, including Oregon, have constitutions that included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments. Nine states have constitutions that include provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment. One state—Vermont—has a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost. These constitutional provisions were added to state constitutions, in their original forms, from the 1850s to the 1890s. 

In 2022, Oregon voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment to require the state to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” 

From 1995 to 2020, the number of measures on Oregon ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 32. About 46.43% (78 of 168) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 53.57% (90 of 168) were defeated.

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Mike Nearman expelled from OR state House

The Oregon House of Representatives voted to expel state Rep. Mike Nearman (R) on June 10. Nearman’s colleagues expelled him due to video footage that showed him helping protesters, some of whom were armed, enter the state Capitol building on December 21, 2020. This led to a struggle between the protesters and police officers, causing injuries and property damage.

The resolution to expel Nearman passed 59-1, with only Nearman voting against. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Nearman is the first person to have ever been expelled from the Oregon Legislature.

Nearman was first elected to represent District 23 in the Oregon state House in 2014, defeating incumbent Jim Thompson (R) in the Republican primary. Before he entered politics, Nearman worked in software engineering and tech support.

There have been 52 state legislative vacancies in 30 states so far in 2021. Thirty-seven of those vacancies have been filled. Two other state legislators have been expelled this year; Luke Simons (R-ND), and Rick Roeber (R-MO).

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Oregon voters will decide on whether to add a right to affordable healthcare to the state constitution in 2022

On May 19, the Oregon State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would add a new section requiring the state to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The amendment would also add a provision requiring the right to affordable healthcare be “balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services.”

Rep. Rob Nosse (D), one of the chief sponsors of the amendment, said, “Burdensome medical bills, or medical conditions that go untreated because of a lack of financial resources, cause great strain to families and individuals all over this state. They hold people back, causing them to forego starting a business, getting an education, buying a home, or having children. This amendment is a practical and sober statement of what the people of this state need.”

Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod (R), who voted in opposition to the measure, said, “It’s going to either be an absolutely empty promise that we have no intention of keeping, or it’s going to be a right that’s going to bankrupt the state.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the Oregon State Senate and the Oregon House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 12 (SJR 12) on January 11, 2021. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 12 largely along party lines in a vote of 17-13. Independent Senator Brian Boquist and Democratic Senator Betsy Johnson joined the Republican minority. On May 19, 2021, the House approved SJR 12 along party lines by a vote of 34-23 with three excused. 

The amendment was proposed in the state legislature at least eight times in the last 16 years according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. During the 2020 legislative session, Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D) proposed the amendment. It was approved largely along party lines in the Oregon House of Representatives by a vote of 36-21 with three excused. One Democrat joined the Republican minority in the vote. 

The amendment did not receive a vote in the Oregon State Senate due to a legislative walkout. On February 24, 2020, 11 of the 12 Republican members of the Senate did not attend the regularly scheduled morning Senate floor session. Democrats held 18 seats, two short of the 20 members needed for a quorum. On March 5, Senate President Peter Courtney (D) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) adjourned their respective chambers early due to the lack of a quorum.

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to the Oregon 2022 ballot. From 1995 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 32, and the average number of measures was 14. Between 1995 and 2020, about 46.43% (78 of 168) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 53.57% (90 of 168) were defeated.

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Voters in Multnomah County, Oregon, renew property tax levy to fund historical society

On May 18, voters in Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes Portland, approved a ballot measure to renew a property tax levy of $0.05 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Revenue will fund the Oregon Historical Society’s library, museum, and educational programs. The ballot measure received 78.5% of the vote according to unofficial election night results. The measure was put on the ballot through a vote of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

Officials estimated the measure would between $3.4 million and $3.9 million per year to the Oregon Historical Society. The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) was established in 1898 and curates historical records and artifacts for Portland and the state. The OHS acts as the Multnomah County Historical Society.

Ballotpedia is covering general elections in eight Oregon school boards on May 18

The general election for eight school boards in Oregon is on May 18. These districts do not hold primary elections for school board races. The filing deadline to run passed on March 18. 

School board candidates are competing in the following districts:

• Beaverton School District

• Centennial School District 28J

• David Douglas School District

• Parkrose School District 3

• Portland Public Schools

• Reynolds School District 7

• Salem-Keizer Public Schools

• Scappoose School District 1J

These eight districts served a total of 161,240 students during the 2018-2019 school year.

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New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

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In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.