Legislative Process

Processes 101

Initiative Process:

The initiative process allows direct government by the people. Citizens write a proposed law or constitutional amendment and present it to the people through an initiative petition. A specified percentage of voters must sign the petition endorsing the proposed law or amendment. When enough signatures have been obtained, the initiative then qualifies as a ballot measure and is voted on at the general election.


The referendum process allows voters to indicate acceptance or rejection of a proposed new statute or constitutional amendment that originated in and has already been accepted by the state legislature. A referendum is usually voted on at the general election, but may be placed on the ballot in a special election.

Types of Elections

Primary Election

The primary election is held on the third Tuesday in May of each even-numbered year. This is a nominating election. There are partisan and nonpartisan positions and, possibly, measures on the ballot. All voters may vote on the measures. However, the Oregon Primary is a closed election in which only voters affiliated with a majority party may vote for candidates of that party. Registered voters not affiliated with a major party may vote only for nonpartisan candidates. The Democratic and Republican parties have the choice of opening their primary to nonaffiliated voters. If they do so, nonpartisan voters may vote on those party candidates. A simple majority vote determines who will represent each party in the general election. Nonpartisan candidates may win outright in the primary based on a percentage of the vote. If a specified percentage is not achieved by one candidate, the two candidates with the most votes will contend in the general election.

General Election

The general election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year. Any registered voter may vote on all offices and measures. Both partisan and nonpartisan positions are determined by a majority vote.

Other Election Dates/Special Elections

Other designated election dates are in March and September of each year. Special elections may be requested by the Legislature or be a recall election.

Contact information:

Secretary of State
Elections Division
141 State Capital Court House,
Salem, OR 97310
Phone: (503) 378-4144
Fax: (503) 373-7314

Jackson County Clerk
10 S. Oakdale
Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 776-7181

Josephine County Clerk
P.O. Box 69
Grants Pass, OR 97526
Phone: (541) 474-5243

Voters’ Guides (available soon)

Standard Voters’ Guide

Large Print Voters’ Guide

Easy Voters’ Guide

Spanish Voters’ Guide

Video Voters’ Guide
Salem City Council Ward 7 video interviews
Polk County Commissioner video interviews (coming soon) 

Audio guide

Screen-reader accessible guide

Braille: call 1-800-452-0292


Check your voter registration status online

League of Women Voters never supports or opposes candidates for office, or political parties, and any use of the League of Women Voters name in campaign advertising or literature has not been authorized by the League.

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