Oregon Right to Initiative and Referendum, Measure 1 (June 1902)

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The Oregon Right to Initiative and Referendum Amendment, also known as Measure 1, was on the June 2, 1902 ballot in Oregon as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure created a referendum and initiative process for Oregon.[1]

Measure 1 amended Section 1 of Article IV of the Oregon Constitution.[2] The measure amended the state constitution for the first time since 1859.

The initiative and referendum process subsequently developed became known as the “Oregon System.”


Kadderly v. City of Portland

Kadderly filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland which wanted to do street construction based on a new city charter. Kadderly claimed that the new initiative and referendum constitutional amendment postponed the effective date of statutes until 90 days after the end of the session, in order to allow time for petition circulation. Portland responded by attacking the new constitutional amendment as a departure from republican governance as defined in the state and federal constitutions.[3]

On July 2, 1902, the State Circuit Court of Multnomah County determined that the initiative and referendum amendment to the constitution was invalid. Their argument was based on the fact that when the initiative and referendum amendment was proposed, there were five other amendments pending. It was “not adopted in accordance with the terms of the constitution regulating amendments to that instrument,” according to the court. They continued, “The wisdom of the methodical deliberative method, provided for disposing of questions so important as amendments to the constitution, is quite manifest.[4] The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Oregon.

In December 1903, the Supreme Court of Oregon offered a mixed ruling. Justice Robert S. Bean said, “A republican form of government is a government administered by representatives chosen or appointed by the people or by their authority.” The initiative and referendum process, however, did not impinge upon republican governance. “The government is still divided into the legislative, executive, and judicial departments, the duties of which are discharged by representatives selected by the people,” he noted. Constituents may now have the ability to legislate and defeat bills, yet “the legislative and executive departments are not destroyed, nor are their powers or authority materially curtailed.” Furthermore, initiated laws may be deemed unconstitutional through judicial review and can be amended and repealed by legislatures. Regarding Portland’s street assessment, the court ruled that such an action wasn’t subject to referral in any even because the action was “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” of the public.[3]

Kadderly v. City of Portland has been utilized by multiple state supreme courts in dealing with the initiative and referendum process. The case is highly regarded due to the court's ruling on how direct democracy operates within a republican system of governing.

Election results

Oregon Measure 1 (1902)
Approveda Yes 62,024 91.63%

Election results via: Oregon Blue Book

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot in the Hubbard Precinct of Marion County, Oregon:[5]

Mark Between the Number and Name of Each Candidate or Answer Voted for.

Constitutional Amendment - - Vote Yes or No

105 Initiative and Referendum Amendment . . . . . . Yes

106 Initiative and Referendum Amendment . . . . . . No [6]




  • US Senator John H Mitchell (R)[7]
  • US Senator Joseph Simon (R)
  • Governor Theodore Thurston Geer (R)[8]
  • State Representative William S. U'Ren (P)
  • State Senator Frank Williams (P)[7]
  • Judge George H. Williams
  • Andrew C. Smith, President of the State Board on Health[8]



The Direct Legislation League’s President, Judge George H. Williams, and Secretary, William S. U’Ren, issued an appeal to voters to approve Measure 1:[9]

  • The initiative and referendum process, they argued, “does not abolish the Legislature, but it does make the whole body of voters a supreme legislative body.”
  • The initiative and referendum process has been institutionalized in Switzerland for thirty-five years. There the process has worked without causing any major social conflict or unrest.

Other arguments included:[8]

  • Governor Geer (R) stated, “It may not be needed now any more than it was 100 years ago, but there have been times in the past when even “Our Fathers” could have been wisely checked by this most wholesome reservation of the rights of the people.”
  • Andrew C. Smith, the President of the State Board on Health, argued, "I consider it the basic principle of the theory of government by the people."
  • G.Y. Harry of the State Federation of Labor said, "The adoption of this amendment will give the people power... to enact laws in the interest of the whole people, which the well-organized lobbies of special interests can too often prevent under our present law-making system."



T.J. Fording wrote a letter to the editor in opposition to Measure 1:[10]

  • Fording argued that the initiative and referendum process was a populist ploy created by “a class of agitators” who “are bent on driving capital from the land.”
  • An initiative and referendum process would transform the state into “the mecca of socialism.”
  • He said, “By the referendum good men may attack bad laws, likewise bad men may attack good laws for the purpose of blackmail.”
  • He described the supporters of Measure 1 as “a class of men who devote three-fourths of their working hours to reading and discussing political theories, who think our government very poor and anxiously desire many changes, so many that the electors who have other use for their time cannot possibly analyze pro and con.”

Other arguments included:[11]

  • Critics of direct democracy challenged the constitutionality of the process. The Oregon System, they argued, was not “republican.” The ‘will of the people’ could subvert the representative republican institutions that are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

See also

Suggest a link

Approveda Oregon Right to Local Initiative and Referendum, Measure 8 (June 1906)

External links