Five Republican state senators in Oregon are suing to be allowed to run for reelection next year even though they accumulated a large number of unexcused absences during a walkout aimed at blocking votes on abortion rights and gun safety.
Oregon voters passed a constitutional amendment last year that says any lawmaker who accrues 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session is blocked from seeking reelection, after Republicans used the tactic repeatedly in previous years.
But the senators say a vagary in the way the law is written means they can seek another term, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The amendment says a lawmaker is not allowed to run “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” Since a senator’s term ends in January while elections are held in November, they argue the penalty doesn’t take effect immediately, but instead, after they’ve served another term.
Senate Republican Minority Leader Tim Knopp and four other senators filed the lawsuit on Friday against Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade. The other four are Sens. Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Lynn Findley and Dennis Linthicum.
The lawmakers hope to convince the Oregon Court of Appeals that voters were misled about the language in Measure 113 when they passed the law.
Ten conservative state senators racked up enough unexcused absences to violate Measure 113 during a six-week walkout earlier this year.
The boycott raised doubts about whether the Legislature would be able to pass a new budget. But lawmakers reached a deal which brought Republicans back to the Capitol in exchange for Democratic concessions on measures covering abortion, transgender health care and gun rights.
The walkout was the longest in state history and the second-longest in the United States.
Griffin-Valade’s office didn’t immediately return an email message seeking comment on Saturday.
Earlier this month, Griffin-Valade, who is the state elections chief, issued a news release saying the 10 state senators can’t run for reelection in 2024. She made the announcement to clear up confusion over how reelection rules would affect the senators.