Fans of democracy -- and it's a sad commentary on our politics that this doesn't include everybody -- are heartened by what happened here in Oregon and there in Ohio today.
On the home front, I was thrilled when a notification from the Oregonian popped up on my iPhone saying that our Secretary of State had issued the correct ruling on whether ten state senators who took part in a lengthy walkout during the 2023 legislative session could run for office again.
Here's an excerpt from "Republican senators who boycotted work can't run for reelection, secretary of state rules."
Ten Republican and Independent senators who participated in a six-week walkout this spring won’t be allowed to run for reelection, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced Tuesday.
Griffin-Valade wrote that she views voter-approved Measure 113 as disqualifying Oregon lawmakers who received 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 legislative session from running for reelection in 2024.
That was clearly what voters intended, even though wording of the full text of the measure said absentee lawmakers couldn’t run in the election “after” their term, whereas lawmakers run for reelection about two months before their terms end. Ballot language and media coverage all communicated to voters that the punishment for absences would impact lawmakers in their next term, not a later one.
“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection” to a term immediately following the one in which they have 10 or more unexcused absences, Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”
She said she directed the Oregon Elections Division not to accept reelection filings from any lawmaker who skipped that much work.
Clearly this was the correct decision, though Republicans surely will ask a court to overturn the Secretary of State. Good luck with that. As noted in the Oregonian story, there was no dispute about what Measure 113 would do prior to the vote on it in the November 2022 election.
But now Oregon Republicans want to further burnish their credentials as our state's anti-democracy party.
First they undermined the will of voters who elected Democratic majorities in both the state House and Senate by preventing legislation from moving forward during their six-week walkout, which prevented the Senate from having the two-thirds quorum needed to be in session.
Now they're planning to attempt to undermine the will of the 68% of Oregon voters who approved Measure 113 via a legal challenge to the Secretary of State's ruling on what that law requires. This is typical of Republican politicians these days: when they lose an election, they don't try harder to convince voters to vote for GOP candidates and positions, they attempt to weaken democracy.
Republicans have been doing the same thing in Ohio.
After supporters of reproductive freedom announced that they'd seek to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2023 ballot guaranteeing women in Ohio the right to choose to have an abortion, and polls showed the amendment was likely to pass, the GOP-controlled legislature ignored a recently passed law that did away with August elections.
August, after all, is in the midst of summer when many people aren't paying attention to politics, so the turnout typically is low.
Which is just what Ohio Republicans wanted, since their scheme was to put a proposal on the August 8 ballot (the only thing on the ballot) that would change the threshold for passing a constitutional amendment from a simple majority of the voter to 60%.
They were open about their motivation for doing this: to markedly reduce the chance that Ohio voters would approve the constitutional amendment legalizing abortion, which currently is illegal in Ohio. The proposal also would make it considerably more difficult to obtain the required signatures to put an amendment on the ballot.
Well, today we learned how Ohio voters felt about that Republican attempt to subvert democracy. The proposal failed, big time. With 97% of the vote in, Issue One is failing 43% to 57%.
There's no guarantee that Ohio voters will approve the constitutional amendment legalizing abortion in November, but now it sure seems likely that the amendment will pass, given that every time abortion has been on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have scored a victory.
Americans don't like having rights taken away from them. Especially the right to a free and fair democracy.