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Chapter 3 Nominations and Elections

Article 1 General Procedure

Section 3-101 Time of Taking Office and Terms.

Except as otherwise provided in this charter, those elected take office on the January 1 following the general election in which they are elected and hold office for four years. If, at the end of a term, no successor is yet elected and qualified, the incumbent shall continue to hold office until a successor is elected and qualified.

Except as otherwise provided in this charter, at the November 2024 election, the Mayor and all Councilors from District No. 1 and District No. 2 are elected for a term of four years. At the same election, the Auditor and all Councilors from District No. 3 and District No. 4 are elected for an initial term of two years. At subsequent elections, those elected hold office for four years.

[May 3, 1913, new sec. 41; rev. 1914, sec. 123; 1928 pub., sec. 123; am. Nov. 8, 1932; 1942 recod., sec. 3-101; am. Nov. 6, 1962; May 18, 2004, sec. replaced; amended November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022]

Section 3-102 Ranked Choice Voting.

City Councilors, the Mayor and the Auditor are elected in the general election, except as otherwise provided in this Charter, using ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting means an election method in which voters rank candidates for an office or offices in order of the voter’s preference and ballots are counted in rounds. The use of ranked choice voting must commence with the November 2024 election.

The Mayor and the Auditor are elected at-large using a method of ranked choice voting known as instant runoff voting. Instant runoff voting elects the candidate who has a majority of the vote after the initial round of counting based on the number of first rankings each candidate receives. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the initial round, subsequent rounds are counted in which (i) candidates retain the number of votes counted for them in the first and any subsequent rounds that already occurred; and (ii) the candidates having the fewest votes are successively eliminated in rounds and their votes are counted as votes for the candidates who are ranked next on the ballots that had been counted for the eliminated candidates. The process of eliminating candidates and transferring their votes to the next-ranked candidate on ballots repeats until a candidate has a majority of the vote.

Councilors of each district are elected using a proportional method of ranked choice voting known as single transferable vote. This method provides for the candidates to be elected on the basis of a threshold. The threshold is determined by the number of seats to be filled plus one, so that the threshold is the lowest number of votes a candidate must receive to win a seat such that no more candidates can win election than there are seats to be filled. In the initial round, the number of first rankings received by each candidate is the candidate’s vote count. Candidates whose vote counts are at least the threshold are declared elected. Votes that counted for elected candidates in excess of the threshold are called surplus. If fewer candidates are elected in the initial round than there are seats to be filled, the surplus percentage of all votes for the candidates who received a surplus are transferred to the next-highest ranked candidates in proportion to the total numbers of next-highest rankings they received on the ballots that counted for the elected candidate. If, after all surpluses have been counted in a round, no additional candidates have a vote count that is at least the threshold, the candidates with the lowest vote counts are successively eliminated in rounds and their votes are counted as votes for the candidates who are ranked next highest on the ballots that had been counted for the eliminated candidates, until another candidate has a vote count that is at least the threshold or until the number of candidates remaining equals the number of seats that have not yet been filled. The process of transferring surpluses of elected candidates and eliminating candidates continues until all positions are elected.

The Council must adopt an election code for the administration of ranked choice voting. The City must conduct periodic voter education campaigns to familiarize voters with the ranked choice voting methods described above.

[Section replaced November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022.]

Section 3-103 General Elections.

A general municipal election shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each even numbered year. [May 3, 1913, new sec. 43; rev. 1914, sec. 125; 1928 pub., sec. 125; am. Nov. 8, 1932; 1942 recod., sec. 3-103; am. Nov. 6, 1962.]

Section 3-104 Special Elections.

The Council shall have power to call special elections and shall set up procedure for calling such special elections by ordinance. Thereafter, filing dates for measures to be presented at such special elections shall be changed only by regular ordinance, except for correction of errors or omissions in the general ordinance. [May 3, 1913, new sec. 44; rev. 1914, sec. 126; 1928 pub., sec. 126; am. Nov. 8, 1932; 1942 recod., sec. 3-104; am. Nov. 6, 1962.]

Section 3-105 Nonpartisan Elections.

The elective offices of City Councilors, the Mayor and the Auditor are nonpartisan.  [May 3, 1913, new sec. 45; rev. 1914, sec. 127; 1928 pub., sec. 127; am. Nov. 8, 1932; am. Nov. 6, 1934; 1942 recod., sec. 3‑105; am. Nov. 6, 1962; amended by Ordinance No. 190204, effective December 18, 2020; amended November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022]

Section 3-106 Elections Procedures.

The Council shall adopt by ordinance procedures for conducting City elections. [Ch. 1903, sec. 23; rev. 1914, sec. 128; 1928 pub., sec. 128; am. Nov. 8, 1932; 1942 recod., sec. 3-106; am. Nov. 6, 1962; am. May 18, 1994.]

Section 3-108 Independent District Commission.

The authority to adopt plans that specify the boundaries of districts for the City Council is vested in the Independent District Commission. The Commission consists of thirteen (13) residents of the City who represent a diversity of race, gender, age and geography. Elected or appointed City officials and employees, and candidates for elected City office who have filed and been qualified to the ballot by the City Elections Office, are prohibited from serving on the Commission. 

The Mayor appoints members of the Commission, subject to confirmation by the City Council. The first Commission must be confirmed as soon as practicable but no later than January 31, 2023. Thereafter, the Commission must be confirmed by March 31 in every year ending in “1.” The Commission’s term ends upon adoption of a districting plan. 

The Commission may require bureaus and departments of the City to provide technical assistance. The Commission has a budget as provided by the City Council. [Section added November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022.]
 

Section 3-109 Powers and Duties of the Independent District Commission.

The Commission prepares and adopts a districting plan for dividing the City into four (4) districts for the election of City Councilors. The plan includes a map and a description of districts. 

The vote of at least nine (9) members of the Commission is required to adopt the districting plan. A majority vote of the Commission is required for all other actions. 

The Commission holds at least one (1) public hearing before it develops the districting plan to seek public comment on whether any plan criteria, in addition to the criteria set forth in Section 3-110, will be considered. 

The Commission holds at least two (2) public hearings in each proposed district not less than one (1) month before it votes to adopt the plan. The Commission makes its plan available to the public for inspection and comment not less than one (1) month before the public hearings in each proposed district. The first Commission adopts its plan by September 1, 2023. Thereafter, the Commission adopts its plan by September 1 in every year ending in “1.” If the Commission adopts a plan, no further action by Council is required and the plan is final. If the Commission has not adopted a plan after taking two votes, the most recent version of the plan voted on by the Commission passes to the City Council for its consideration and adoption. The plan is effective when the Commission or the City Council files it with the City Elections Officer. 

No change in the boundary of a district caused by annexation to the City or withdrawal of an area from the City may terminate the office of any Councilor. Upon an annexation or withdrawal, the Mayor may, but need not, initiate the creation of an Independent District Commission to redraw district boundaries. Upon an annexation with no adjustment to a district boundary, the annexed area becomes part of that existing district with which it is most contiguous. [Section added November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022.]

Section 3-110 District Plan Criteria.

The Commission, or the City Council if the Commission is unable to adopt a plan, ensures that each district, as nearly as practicable, will be contiguous and compact, utilize existing geographic or political boundaries, not divide communities of common interest, be connected by transportation links, and be of equal population. No district may be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent elected official or other person. No district may be drawn for the purpose of diluting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group. Additional criteria may be considered, consistent with state and federal law. [Section added November 8, 2022, effective December 14, 2022.]

Article 2 Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Section 3-201 Exercise of Rights.

The initiative, referendum and recall shall be exercised within the City of Portland in the manner provided by the Constitution and general laws of the State, and ordinances of the City of Portland, enacted in pursuance thereof. [May 3, 1913, part of new sec. 56; rev. 1914, sec. 19; 1928 pub., sec. 19; 1942 recod., sec. 3-201.]

Section 3-202 Effective Date of Measures.

Charter amendments, ordinances or measures adopted by the electors of the City under the initiative or approved by the electors of the City when submitted under the referendum shall take effect at the time fixed therein if such time occurs after the vote thereon; if no such time is designated therein, at the day of the adoption. [May 3, 1913, part of new sec. 27; rev. 1914, sec. 49; 1928 pub., sec. 49; 1942 recod., sec. 3-202; am. Nov. 6, 1962.]

Article 3 Campaign Finance in Candidate Elections

[Article added November 6, 2018, effective December 5, 2018.]

Section 3-301 Contributions in City of Portland Candidate Elections

(a)  An Individual or Entity may make Contributions only as specifically allowed to be received in this Article.

(b)  A Candidate or Candidate Committee may receive only the following Contributions during any Election Cycle:

(1)  Not more than five hundred dollars ($500) from an Individual or a Political Committee other than a Small Donor Committee;

(2)  Any amount from a qualified Small Donor Committee;

(3)  A loan balance of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) from the candidate;

(4)  No amount from any other Entity, except as provided in Section 3-304 below.

(c)  Individuals shall have the right to make Contributions by payroll deduction by any private or public employer upon the employer's agreement or if such deduction is available to the employees for any other purpose.

Section 3-302 Expenditures in City of Portland Candidate Elections.

(a)  No Individual or Entity shall expend funds to support or oppose a Candidate, except those collected from the sources and under the Contribution limits set forth in this Article.

(b)  An Entity shall register as a Political Committee under Oregon law within three (3) business days of making aggregate Independent Expenditures exceeding $750 in any Election Cycle to support or oppose one or more Candidates in any City of Portland Candidate Election.

(c)  Only the following Independent Expenditures are allowed per Election Cycle to support or oppose one or more Candidates in any particular City of Portland Candidate Election:

(1)  An Individual may make aggregate Independent Expenditures of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(2)  A Small Donor Committee may make Independent Expenditures in any amounts from funds contributed in compliance with Section 3-301 above.

(3)  A Political Committee may make aggregate Independent Expenditures of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), provided that the Independent Expenditures are funded by means of Contributions to the Political Committee by Individuals in amounts not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) per Individual per year.

Section 3-303 Timely Disclosure of Large Contributions and Expenditures.

(a)  Each Communication to voters related to a City of Portland Candidate Election shall Prominently Disclose the true original sources of the Contributions and/or Independent Expenditures used to fund the Communication, including:

(1)  The names of any Political Committees and other Entities that have paid to provide or present it; and

(2)  For each of the five Dominant Contributors providing the largest amounts of funding to each such Political Committee or Entity in the current Election Cycle:

a)  The name of the Individual or Entity providing the Contribution.

b)  The types of businesses from which the maker of the Contribution has obtained a majority of income over the previous 5 years, with each business identified by the name associated with its 6-digit code of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

(3)  For each of the largest five Dominant Independent Spenders paying to provide or present it:

a)  The name of the Individual or Entity providing the Independent Expenditure.

b)  The types of businesses from which the maker of the Independent Expenditure has obtained a majority of income over the previous 5 years, with each business identified by the name associated with its 6-digit code of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

(b)  If any of the five largest Dominant Contributors or Dominant Independent Spenders is a Political Committee (other than a Small Donor Committee) or nonprofit organization, the prominent disclosure shall include its top three funders during the current Election Cycle.

(c)  The disclosure shall be current to within ten (10) days of the printing of printed material or within five (5) days of the transmitting of a video or audio communication.

Section 3-304 Coordination with Public Funding of Campaigns.

A candidate participating in a government system of public funding of campaigns (including the Public Election Fund established under Portland City Code Chapter 2.16) may receive any amount that such system allows a participating candidate to receive.

Section 3-305 Implementation and Enforcement.

(a)  The provisions of this Article shall be implemented by ordinance to be operative not later than September 1, 2019.

(b)  Each violation of any provision in this Article shall be punishable by imposition of a civil fine which is not less than two nor more than twenty times the amount of the unlawful Contribution or Expenditure or Independent Expenditure at issue.

(c)  Any person may file a written complaint of a violation of any of the Provisions with the City Auditor.

(d)  The City Auditor, otherwise having reason to believe that a violation of any provision has occurred, shall issue a complaint regarding such violation.

(e)  Upon receipt or issuance of a complaint, the City Auditor:

(1)  Shall examine the complaint to determine whether a violation has occurred and shall make any investigation necessary.

(2)  Within two business days of receiving or issuing a complaint, shall issue a notification, including a copy of the complaint, to every person who is the object of the complaint.

(3)  Shall accept written materials supporting or opposing the complaint for a period of 10 business days following any such notification.

(4)  Shall render a decision on the complaint within 10 business days of the close of the material submission period.

(f)  If the complaint is received or issued within 30 days of the date of the election involving the object of the complaint, then all time periods stated in subsections (e)(3) and (e)(4) above shall be reduced by one-half.

(g)  The City Auditor may issue subpoenas to compel the production of records, documents, books, papers, memoranda or other information necessary to determine compliance with the provisions of this Article.

(h)  Upon finding a violation of the requirement for timely disclosure set forth in Section 3-303 above, the City Auditor shall determine  the true  original sources of the Contributions and/or Independent Expenditures used to fund the Communication at issue and shall immediately issue a statement to all interested parties and news organizations containing all of the information about the involved donor(s) required by Section 3-303 above.

(i)  The complainant or any person who is the object of the complaint may, within 30 days of the issuance of the decision, appeal that order to the appropriate Circuit Court as an agency order in other than a contested case.

(j)  The decision in the matter shall be deemed final, following completion of any judicial review. Such decision shall be enforced by the City of Portland. If the decision is not enforced within thirty (30) days of the decision becoming final, the complainant may bring a civil action in a representative capacity for the collection of the applicable civil penalty, payable to the City of Portland, and for any appropriate equitable relief.

Section 3-306 Adjustments.

All dollar amounts shall be adjusted on January 1 of each odd-numbered year to reflect an appropriate measure of price inflation, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Section 3-307 Severability.

For the purpose of determining constitutionality, every section, subsection, and subdivision thereof of this Section, at any level of subdivision, shall be evaluated separately. If any section, subsection or subdivision at any level is held invalid, the remaining sections, subsections and subdivisions shall not be affected and shall remain in full force and effect. The courts shall sever those sections, subsections, and subdivisions necessary to render this Section consistent with the United States Constitution and with the Oregon Constitution. Each section, subsection, and subdivision thereof, at any level of subdivision, shall be considered severable, individually or in any combination.

Section 3-308 Definitions.

Unless otherwise indicated by the text or context of this Article, all terms shall have the definitions at Chapter 260 of Oregon Revised Statutes, as of January 1, 2018. Terms found therein or defined below are capitalized in this Article.

(a)  "Candidate" has the meaning set forth at ORS 260.005(1).

(b)  "Candidate Committee" has the meaning set forth at ORS 260.039 - 260.041, as of November 8, 2016, for the term "principal campaign committee."

(c)  "City of Portland Candidate Election" means an election, including a primary election, to select persons to serve (or cease serving) in public offices of City of Portland.

(d)  "Communication" means any written, printed, digital, electronic or broadcast communications but does not include communication by means of small items worn or carried by Individuals, bumper stickers, Small Signs, or a distribution of five hundred (500) or fewer substantially similar pieces of literature within any 10-day period.

(e)  "Contribution" has the meaning set forth at ORS 260.005(3) and 260.007, as of November 8, 2016, except it does not include

(1)  funds provided by government systems of public funding of campaigns or

(2)  providing rooms, phones, and internet access for use by a candidate committee free or at a reduced charge.

(f)  "Dominant Contributor" means any Individual or Entity which contributes more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) during an Election Cycle to a Candidate Committee or Political Committee.

(g)  "Dominant Independent Spender" means any Individual or Entity which expends more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) during an Election Cycle to support or oppose a particular Candidate.

(h)  "Election cycle" means:

(1)  Generally, the period between an election at which a candidate is elected and the next election for that same office, disregarding any intervening primary or nominating election, any recall election, or any special election called to fill a vacancy.

(2)  For any recall election: the period beginning the day that the recall election is called or declared and ending at midnight of the day of the recall election.

(3)  For any special election called to fill a vacancy: the period beginning the day that the special election is called or declared and ending at midnight of the day of the election.

(i)  "Entity" means any corporation, partnership, limited liability company, proprietorship, Candidate Committee, Political Committee, or other form of organization which creates an entity which is legally separate from an Individual.

(j)  "Expenditure" has the meaning set forth at ORS 260.005(8) and ORS 260.007, as of January 1, 2018, except that:

(1)  It does not include a Communication to its members, and not to the public, by a Membership Organization not organized primarily for the purpose of influencing an election.

(2)  The exception in ORS 260.007(7) does not apply.

(k)  "General Election Period" means the period beginning the day after the biennial primary election and ending the day of the biennial general election.

(l)  "Individual" means a citizen or resident alien of the United States entitled to vote in federal elections; however, when this Article expresses a limitation or prohibition, "Individual" means any human being.

(m)  "Membership Organization" means a nonprofit organization, not formed or operated for the purpose of conducting or promoting commercial enterprise, which has Individual members who have taken action to join the organization and have made a payment of money or volunteer time to maintain membership in the organization.

(1)  It cannot have commercial enterprises as members.

(2)  It can transfer to one and only one small donor committee not more than forty percent (40%) of the amount paid to the organization by each Individual member, with a limit of one hundred dollars ($100) transferred per Individual member per calendar year.

(3)  It shall within thirty (30) days of any such transfer notify each paying member of the amount transferred, expressed in dollars or as a percentage of the member's amount paid to the organization. Such notice may be provided by regular mail or electronic mail to each affected member or by posting the information on the organization's main website. If the amount transferred is the same for each member or category of members (in dollars or in percentage of amount paid), the posting may state that amount or percentage without identifying Individual members.

(n)  "Primary Election Period" means the period beginning on the 21st day after the preceding biennial general election and ending the day of the biennial primary election.

(o)  "Prominently Disclose" means that the disclosure shall be readily comprehensible to a person with average reading, vision, and hearing faculties, with:

(1)  any printed disclosure appearing in a type of contrasting color and in the same or larger font size as used for the majority of text in the printed material;

(2)  any video disclosure remaining readable on the regular screen (not closed captioning) for a not less than 4 seconds;

(3)  any auditory disclosure spoken at a maximum rate of five words per second;

(4)  any website or email message in type of a contrasting color in the same or larger font size as used for the majority of text in the message;

(5)  any billboard or sign other than a Small Sign: in type of a contrasting color and not smaller than 10 percent of the height of the billboard or sign.

(p)  "Small Donor Committee" means a Political Committee which has never accepted any Contributions except from Individuals in amounts limited to one hundred dollars ($100) per Individual contributor per calendar year.

(q)  "Small Sign" means a sign smaller than six (6) square feet.