Since February, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon’s largest Latino union, has been leading a coalition of organizations to advocate for an Oregon Voting Rights Act that would allow residents easier ability to challenge discriminatory and inequitable electoral systems. Though some of these protections exist in the Federal Voting Rights Act, these protections are notoriously expensive to access and can only be applied under narrow sets of circumstances.
Under PCUN’s leadership, organizations like APANO, Latino Network, ACLU of Oregon, Common Cause Oregon, and the Northwest Health Foundation began putting pressure on legislators and activating their grassroots membership to advocate for the bill, sponsored in the House by Representative Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) and in the Senate by Senators Tim Knopp (R-Bend), Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego), and James Manning (D-Eugene). Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the bill into law on June 20th after the bipartisan legislation easily cleared both chambers of the legislature, passing in the House by a vote of 46-12 and in the Senate by a vote of 28-0.
Oregon joins California and Washington in enacting state-based voting rights protections that make it easier for communities to challenge flawed electoral systems. The OVRA applies to school districts, education service districts, and community college districts, where communities of color are systemically under-represented. If successful, legislators could expand the legislation to apply to more jurisdictions.