Early returns released Tuesday show support for four statewide measures, though the results are mostly tight.

Only one, Measure 113 that aims to ban legislative walkouts, appears headed towards victory. With just over 1 million ballots counted out of nearly 3 million at 9 p.m., nearly 68% voted in favor and 32% were against.

The vote for Measure 111, which would make affordable health care a right in the Oregon Constitution, was split. The vote on Measure 112, which would remove slavery and involuntary servitude from the constitution as a punishment for a crime, showed 54% in favor and 46% against. And the early results for Measure 114, which would tighten Oregon’s gun laws, had 51% in favor and 49% against.

Here’s a look at the measures:

Measure 111

Supporters say that passage of this measure would make Oregon the first state in the country to declare health care a right in the state constitution: “It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.”

The measure grew out of a joint resolution by two Portland Democrats, state Rep. Rob Nosse and state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, was passed on a party-line vote in the Legislature in 2021 and referred to the ballot. 

Steiner Hayward has said that adding it to Oregon’s Constitution would mean that the right would remain regardless of the political leadership and would force the Legislature to consider it in budgetary decisions.

Analysts say establishing a right in the constitution would not guarantee that everyone actually has affordable health care coverage or even what that coverage would entail. The measure provides no details.

Opponents say passage would spark an onslaught of lawsuits that the state would have to defend with taxpayer dollars.

Measure 112

Measure 112 would remove language from the Oregon Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime. Though the two were banned with the ratification of the 13th Amendment nearly 170 years ago, they were not eliminated as potential punishments for a crime. 

In recent years, states have been closing that loophole, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. Since 2018, Colorado, Nebraska and Utah passed ballot initiatives similar to Measure 112, and in the current election, four states besides Oregon – Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Vermont – have similar measures on slavery and involuntary servitude on the ballot.

The measure stems from a joint resolution which was approved by the Legislature during the 2021 session with broad bipartisan backing and referred to the ballot.

Though there was no formal opposition to the measure, critics say it could undermine the right of inmates to reduce their sentences by doing jobs such as working in commissaries or cleaning up public spaces.

Measure 113

This measure aims to discourage minority parties in the Legislature from stalling or blocking legislation by walking out. In Oregon, the Legislature must have a quorum to pass bills and conduct business. In the Senate, 20 of the 30 senators must be present and 40 of the 60 representatives must be there. In 2001, Democratic lawmakers walked out over a Republican redistricting plan, but in more recent years Republican lawmakers walked out, including twice over their opposition to cap-and-trade proposals aimed at lowering harmful emissions by fossil fuel producers. 

The tactic was successful at the time, with Democrats shelving the climate proposals. In 2021, however, Gov. Kate Brown ordered the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to set emissions targets through an executive order. 

The measure would allow nine-day walkouts but legislators who miss 10 or more sessions during a term would be barred from running for office the following term.

Measure 114

Hundreds of thousands of firearms are sold in Oregon each year, according to Oregon State Police. And some of them are used for suicides.

Supporters of Measure 114 say those numbers would decline by tightening the state’s gun laws. The measure would not change the age limit for firearm purchases, which is 18. Background checks are also required but the measure would close a loophole in federal law that allows sales to go through if those checks take longer than three days. The measure would eliminate that loophole, requiring a background check to obtain a gun permit regardless of how long it takes.

Purchasers also would have to pass firearm safety training to obtain a firearm permit. 

The measure would not ban assault-style weapons, which have been used in many mass shootings in the U.S., but it would prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds. 

People who already own large magazines could use them on their property, while hunting or at shooting ranges. The measure would not require current gun owners to undergo new background checks or enroll in safety classes but it would apply to new gun sales.

Oregon State Police would be responsible for writing rules to regulate the measure’s provisions. In a statement, it told the Capital Chronicle it had no estimate of how long that process would take: “There are many components of this proposed language that make estimating the rulemaking process timeline difficult,” it said.

It also would not say whether Oregon would have a public gun registry.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.