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Difference from federal
The Oregon Constitution is easier to amend than its federal counterpart. Amending the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in Congress and ratification by three fourths of the states. Oregon only requires a simple majority to vote in favor of an amendment once it has been referred to the voters either by a simple majority of the legislature or through an initiative petition. In the case of a petition, signatures of 8% of the number of voters participating in the last governor's election are required to get it on the ballot, a third higher than the 6% required for a change in statute.
The right to free speech in Oregon is broader than that enjoyed at the federal level. Article I, Section 8 says:
- No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.
The Oregon Supreme Court has cited this right against parts of Oregon's disorderly conduct statute, against content-based restrictions on billboards and murals, and against laws restricting the sale of pornography.
Article I of the state's constitution is a bill of rights for its citizens. As of 2009, it addresses the following topics:
- Natural rights inherent in people
- Freedom of worship
- Freedom of religion
- No religious qualification for office
- No money to be appropriated for religion
- No religious test for witnesses or jurors
- Manner of administering oath or affirmation
- Freedom of speech and freedom of the press
- Unreasonable searches or seizures
- Administration of justice
- Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecution (amended 1932, 1934
- Double jeopardy; compulsory self-incrimination
- Treatment of arrested or confined persons
- Bailable offenses
- Foundation principles of criminal law (amended 1996)
- Excessive bail and fines; cruel and unusual punishments; power of jury in criminal case
- Jury trial in civil cases
- Private property or services taken for public use (amended 1920, 1924)
- Imprisonment for debt
- Equality of privileges and immunities of citizens
- Ex-post facto laws; laws impairing contracts; laws depending on authorization in order to take effect; laws submitted to electors
- Suspension of operation of laws
- Habeas corpus
- Corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate
- Assemblages of people; instruction of representatives; application to legislature
- Right to bear arms; military subordinate to civil power
- Quartering soldiers
- Titles of nobility; hereditary distinctions
- Rights of aliens; immigration to state (repealed 1970)
- Taxes and duties; uniformity of taxation (amended 1917)
- Enumeration of rights not exclusive
- Slavery or involuntary servitude
- Restrictions on rights of certain persons (repealed 1926)
- Liquor prohibition (adopted 1914, repealed 1933); Prohibition of importation of liquors (adopted 1916, repealed 1933); Capital punishment (adopted 1914, repealed 1920)
- Penalty for murder in first degree (adopted 1920, repealed 1964)
- Laws abrogated by amendment abolishing death penalty revived (adopted 1920, repealed 1964)
- Sale of liquor by individual glass (adopted 1952)
- Penalty for aggravated murder (adopted 1984)
- Work and training for corrections institution inmates; work programs; limitations; duties of corrections director (adopted 1994; amended 1997, 1999)
- Rights of victim in criminal prosecutions and juvenile court delinquency proceedings (adopted 1999)
- Rights of victim and public to protection from accused person during criminal proceedings; denial of pretrial release (adopted 1999)
- Term of imprisonment imposed by court to be fully served; exceptions (adopted 1999)
- Person convicted of certain crimes not eligible to serve as juror on grand jury or trial jury in criminal case (adopted 1999)
- V: Executive Department
- VI: Administrative Department
- VII: Judicial Department
- VIII: Education and School Lands
- IX: Finance
- X: The Militia
- XI: Corporations and Internal Improvements
- XII: State Printing
- XIII: Salaries (repealed 1956)
- XIV: Seat of Government
- XV: Miscellaneous
- XVI: Boundaries
- XVII: Amendments and Revisions
- XVIII: Schedule
Amending the constitution
The Oregon Constitution lays out four different paths, in two different articles, for how to go about changing the state's constitution. The Oregon Constitution is explicit--unlike virtually any other state constitution--on the process for a constitutional revision, which is established in Section 2 of Article XVII.
The constitution also lays out three paths by which it may be amended.
- An initiated amendment must be proposed "only by a petition signed by a number of qualified voters equal to eight percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for Governor at the election at which a Governor was elected for a term of four years next preceding the filing of the petition."
- The petition must include the full text of the proposed amendment.
- The signatures must be filed "not less than four months before the election at which the proposed...amendment to the Constitution is to be voted upon."
- Article IV contains several restrictions on the process such as Section 1b, which prohibits pay-per-signature.
- Amendments can be proposed in either house of the state legislature.
- To earn a spot on the ballot, a "majority of all the members elected to each of the two houses" must vote in favor of a proposed amendment.
- The legislature can, if it wishes, put any such referred amendments on a special election ballot.
- "When two or more amendments shall be submitted in the manner aforesaid to the voters of this state at the same election, they shall be so submitted that each amendment shall be voted on separately."
3. Section 1 of Article XVIII also addresses how a constitutional convention can be held but only in the negative by saying "No convention shall be called to amend or propose amendments to this Constitution, or to propose a new Constitution, unless the law providing for such convention shall first be approved by the people on a referendum vote at a regular general election." What is left undefined is how the question of whether to hold a convention can come before the people in the first place: Can citizens petition under Article IV to put it on the ballot? Can the state legislature vote to put it on the ballot?
- Constitution of Oregon from the Oregon State Legislature
- History of the constitution from the Oregon Blue Book (includes link to printable copy)