In 1948, by initiative, voters amended the Oregon Constitution to require that in order to vote in school elections citizens must meet certain qualifications. These qualifications are set forth in section 6, Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution, and include requirements that a citizen be at least 21 years old, have resided in the school district for at least six months before the election and have registered for the election. A citizen meeting these qualifications would be allowed to vote in the school election if the citizen also could read and write English.
Later developments in voting rights laws and in court decisions interpreting the United States Constitution have made each of these requirements unconstitutional or a violation of federal law. The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents denial or abridgment of the voting rights of a citizen 18 years of age or older. Federal court decisions have held that residency requirements of the type set forth in section 6, Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Oregon's Attorney General in 1972 held that the requirement is unenforceable. Finally, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 generally prohibits literacy tests as a condition for eligibility to vote.
This measure repeals Section 6, Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution, so that Oregon's requirements for voting in school elections do not violate federal law and the United States Constitution. The measure also amends section 2, Article II of the Oregon Constitution, in order to remove a reference to the same section 6, Article VIII, repealed in the measure.
Note: The explanatory statement for Measure 54 was provided by the 2007 Legislature as part of House Bill 2640