Secretary of State Publishes New Political Activities Manual

The Secretary of State’s Office has updated its manual on restrictions on political campaigning by public employees ORS 260.432.  Under ORS 260.432, public employees may not use their work time to support or oppose measures, candidates, recalls, political committees or petitions. The manual, which was previously published in 2008, outlines when and how the law applies.

It is important to remember that the law does not specify any amount of work time that may be used before a violation occurs, so a public employee may be found in violation even though they used a minimal amount of work time.  In addition, an elected official or any other employer of a public employee violates the law by requiring or directing public employees to prepare or distribute advocacy materials.

 One significant change in the manual is that the Secretary of State’s Office will no longer review ballot titles and explanatory statements.  According to the manual, “[b]ecause the impartiality requirements and ballot title challenge [and explanatory statement]  process[es] in ORS chapter 250 are distinct from the requirements of ORS 260.432, this office will not review ballot titles [or explanatory statements] for impartiality. Public employees who draft ballot titles [and explanatory statements] as part of their job duties will not be found in violation of ORS 260.432 for drafting a ballot title [or explanatory statement].”

 Notwithstanding this new position, the Secretary of State’s Office still advises that “[a]ny materials produced by public employees while on the job during work hours must be impartial.”  The Secretary of State’s Office will therefore continue to make itself to review documents prior to publication to ensure compliance with ORS 260.432.  If the document is submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office and approved in writing, there will be no violation of ORS 260.432 as long as what is printed does not deviate from the approved version. The Secretary of State’s Office has stated that any review process will be completed within five business days of the submission of the document.  Local governments may submit documents for review to:

Oregon Secretary of State, Elections Division

Phone: 503-986-1518

Fax: 503-373-7414

Email: elections.sos@state.or.us