Blogs: Elections

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the backgroundLocal Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

The League of Woman Voters of Portland provides a handy Directory of Elected Officials of local, state, and federal elected officials for the entire Multnomah County including local school districts.


State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   


President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009Federal Government is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

In Oregon as in other states, 2014 may well be remembered as the year same sex marriage became legal after a federal judge struck down the state ban. It is also notable as the year Oregonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana. While same sex marriages commenced immediately after the court ruling in May 2014; the possession and the use of marijuana in Oregon will not be legal until July 1, 2015. It won't be until 2016 before marijuana can be sold legally in the state.  In the meantime, Oregon looks to its neighbor to the north to see how this new law might affect the state. What other new laws await us in 2015?

In addition to the marijuana initiative taking effect in July 2015, the Oregon State Legislature passed two other drug related laws that will take effect January 1, 2015. One is HB 4094a law that gives immunity from being cited for alcohol possession to persons under 21 when they request assistance for an alcohol-related medical emergency either for themselves or another person. The other new law is HB 4065. This law applies in cases of foreclosed residential properties that are auctioned. The seller must include language warning prospective buyers that the property may have been used in manufacturing methamphetamines.

Tree trunk on a city street.If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, including the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are listed in the Bills and Laws tab under the 2014 Regular Session.  From the Oregon State Legislature website you can search for bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also review a flowchart illustration of how a bill becomes law.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's video, I’m Just a Bill.

At a city level, the Parks and Recreation department of the City of Portland has a new tree code beginning January 2, 2015.  You can read all of the details for Portland Trees from Parks and Recreation but one of the major changes is that removal of trees will require a permit on all private properties regardless of where they are located.

As is always the case,  librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we will happily suggest research tools to help you find the information you desire.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!

Signing the Equal Suffrage Amendment in 1912Each election, Oregon’s “initiative” system of government produces a number of hot-button issues requiring the decision of our ever-patient voters. (My theory about vote-by-mail is that we didn’t want to spend all the time required to vote on our myriad measures hunched over our ballots in those rickety cardboard “booths” when we could do it in the comfort of our own homes.) Others have addressed driving "cards" for undocumented residents, labeling of genetically modified foods, legalization of marijuana.  I want to talk about a less glamorous amendment to the Oregon Constitution proposed under Ballot Measure 89:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.

Most of the muted discussion on this issue has been about whether or not it is necessary.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU) says not. “[T]he Oregon Constitution already has the strongest possible protection against sex discrimination and the Oregon Supreme Court has enforced that protection.”  The ACLU identifies Article 1, section 20 as this protection: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Supporters of the measure caution that Supreme Courts can change; best to be on the safe side. They also point to the symbolic value of those words in the state’s Constitution, and express the hope that this vote will somehow compel our federal legislators to vote to begin the process to amend the U.S. Constitution. (According to, such bills have been introduced to every Congress since 1982 [when the ERA failed to meet its deadline for ratification by 2/3 of the states].)

Vote however you please this year, but for goodness sake, vote!  And take a look at these books and websites about the fight for equal rights for women in the past 100 years.

I love the fall. The weather stops being ridiculously hot, the rain comes back, and the school year is still full of potential (granted, I like school better now that I’m not the one in class). There’s also the possibility of something new worth watching on TV and then of course all those fantastic campaign ads:

  Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy LewinBad Kitty by Nick Bruel


Ok, even I don’t believe that last one. But hooray for democracy!

So where do you go when you want to know more about that candidate or that ballot measure? I suppose you could just trust the ads, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, take a look at Ballotpedia and

Ballotpedia is one of those websites that you think you’ve found everything- and then you find more. Their goal is to provide “accurate and objective information about politics at the local, state, and federal level.”  They have information on everything from presidential elections to school board elections and from major national issues to a profile of Louisville City Councilor Madonna Flood.  

Red and blue U.S. Mail letter drop box.

If you need to know about the Federal government, Govtrack has it covered!  Want to meet the Congressman from Arkansas? They can do that. The site is excellent for seeing what elected officials have done in their time in office; i.e. what bills they voted for and which ones they wrote as well as who is on the Ethics Committee.

Both Govtrack and Ballotpedia are great at providing context. Say you want to know how well different senators work together- you can check their report cards. Or you can see what happens to a bill. I especially appreciate Ballotpedia for their detailed look at different ballot measures- I used it when I was trying to find out more about Oregon’s measure 92 and found more than I had even thought to wonder about.

Whether you are casting your vote, writing a school report or just curious (maybe all three!) I hope that these sites can help you see things in a new way. And of course, if you want to know more you can also ask a librarian!

*Bad Kitty is by Nick Bruel and Duck is by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Are you curious about the history of presidential elections in the United States? Do you need to know how the electoral college works, what qualifications a person needs to be eligible to run for president, or how the candidates are paying for their campaigns? Turn to these sites for answers!

Campaign Finance Institute

This think tank website offers nonpartisan discussion of many issues related to campaign finance in congressional and presidential election campaigns. You'll find reports on developments in federal campaign finance lawpolitical parties and interest groups and "soft money" and how they affect the funding of political campaigns, and information about current issues in the news.

CQ Roll Call Politics

Find political news, information on current campaigns, analysis, data about campaign funding. Use the state map find information about house, senate, and gubernatorial elections around the country.

Election '14

Are you curious about what Americans think about election issues? The Pew Research Center's survey people across the U.S. about their attitudes, habits, and opinions — read their reports on elections and the media, religion in politics, the internet's role in politics, and more!

Sometimes when campaign ads make a claim, or when a politician says something important in a speech, it is difficult to find out the background on the issue. This site brings together information that can help you check the factual claims that candidates, political campaigns, and elected officials make.

Find the latest news about election reform and the move to increase voter participation, and read reports on a wide array of election issues, from the Center for Voting and Democracy.

PolitiFact vets statements made by the campaigns in ads, speeches and debates, and provides articles and facts supporting or refuting the statements. Use the truth-o-meter to view the latest statements reviewed.

In Oregon and many other states, laws can be made directly by the popular vote of citizens. There are two kinds of ballot measures: referendums which are referred from the state legislature to the voters; and initiatives, which are put on the ballot as a result of signature petitions signed by registered voters. These websites can help you learn about the history and future of ballot measures and other methods of direct democracy.

Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

This organization advocates for ballot initiative reform from a progressive perspective, and provides information about ballot measure campaigns nationwide. Find information about current measures on the ballot across the nation, read overviews of election results, find out which states allow voter initiatives (PDF, 10KB), and learn about the rules for how to get an initiative on the ballot in each state.

Ballot Measures Database

Find information about statewide ballot measures from across the U.S., back to Oregon's first referendum authorizing the initiative process in 1902. This database, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, is part of a larger site rich with information about initiatives, referendums, and campaign finance, as well as other information about state elections in the U.S.

Direct Democracy: Initiatives and Referendums

Find answers to your questions about how ballot measures work, and their history in Oregon.

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Are you curious about ballot measures across the US? Find reports about ballot measure results and trends, quick facts about initiatives and referendums, and information about how ballot measures work in the different states.

Do you need information for the current or upcoming elections? Are you looking for your elected officials, campaign headquarters, or county elections divisions? Are you interested in historical information from past elections? The following resources help you find information at the state, city and county levels in Oregon.

League of Women Voters of Oregon

The Oregon chapter of the League of Women Voters publishes non-partisan voters' guides for each election. The League never takes stands on candidates or parties, but they do take stands on issues supported by member agreement and in-depth research. The League also reports on many electoral and political issues of interest to Oregonians.

Multnomah County Elections Division

Oregon Elections Division

Find voter resources and check to see if you're already registered to vote. Track the status of initiatives, find detailed information about candidates and committees, learn about the history of Oregon elections and locate county election offices around the state.

Oregon Follow the Money

Find out who gave money to various political candidates and ballot measure campaigns in Oregon, and see how much money each donor contributed.

Oregonian: Voter Guide

Are you wondering how the candidates in a city, county, or statewide race compare? OregonLive asked candidates from around the state to provide information about themselves and their positions on the issues, and you can compare their answers here.

Portland Elections Division

Find current and historical city election results back to 1905, a list of elected officials from 1913 to the present, and mayors from 1851 to the present. Find out how to become a city candidate, how to file an initiative or referendum petition, or test your knowledge of Portland elections on the trivia page!

Washington Elections Division

Find information about elections, voting, caucuses, candidates and political parties in the state of Washington.

On July 19, 1984, about 65 years after women were granted the right to vote, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Vice President of the United States.  It was just my second opportunity to vote for president, and what I remember most about her speech was the faces of the women listening to her. This was historic, we (women) had arrived and we were not looking back! She lost, of course, in a landslide. It took another 24 years for it to happen again: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ran for Vice President, and – while she garnered over 20-million more votes than Ferraro – she lost too.  In 2008, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won more presidential primaries than any woman before her, but ended up on the losing side as well. Many political observers and pundits believe she will run for president again in 2016. Or maybe there’s someone else. Fourth time’s the charm?

Ferraro, Palin and Clinton are not the only women who have sought the office of president or vice president. Oregon’s own suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway, was nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1884, but she declined to run. In an earlier version of the Equal Rights Party, suffragist, journalist, and “free love” advocate Victoria Woodhull was the first woman ever to run for president in 1872. There was also the 1940 candidacy of the comedienne Gracie Allen, who ran for the Surprise Party. She earned about 42,000 votes; of the 32 women who ran for the office in the next 72 years, her vote total comes in sixth.

Let’s remember a few other women, whose candidacies we can take a little more seriously. There’s Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who ran in 1972; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the House and Senate, who ran in 1964; Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, who was Ralph Nader’s Green Party running mate in 1996 and 2000 (in the latter election, she earned nearly 3,000,000 votes); and Cindy Sheehan, who protested the Iraq War following the death of her son, and ran as Roseanne Barr’s vice president for the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012. Then there’s the most recent woman to seek the nomination from a major party, Representative Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

Dig deep into the lives of women who have sought the presidency in these books.

Imagine being granted the right to vote for the very first time, only to be turned away at the polls because you had no money to pay to vote! Until 1964 this was a common occurrence in many states. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 24th amendment. This amendment to the United States Constitution banned the use of "poll taxes" in federal elections, finally  clearing the way for broader voter participation.  These Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax back in 1950 in Richmond, VA.

Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax, Richmond, VA. Date: ca. 1950 Collection: L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.Back in 1917, the state of Louisiana charged a $1 poll tax  – that’s an equivalent of $20.09 by 2014 standards.

In addition to poll taxes, some states required literacy tests before voters were allowed to cast their votes. Such tests were often confusing and had nothing to do with the issues or candidates on the ballot. Here is a sample literacy test...


2014 also marks the 90th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act granting Native Americans all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

To learn more about the Voting Rights Act, and the history of voting rights in the United States, take a look at this timeline created by the ACLU documenting major voting rights milestones from 1867 to the present.

And, for some basics about voting and elections, try this pbs kids site and make your own future voter card!

The new year is upon us! 

In addition to remembering to write 2014, making and following our new year’s resolutions, and welcoming the gradual return of the light, we also have a slew of new laws in the state of Oregon that will take effect January 1, 2014.

Large stack of papers.

The news outlets, such as The Oregonian and KVAL 13, have published stories about the new laws, providing a digest of some of the most interesting or unique laws soon to be in effect.

Highlights include Senate Bill 444 A that makes smoking in a motor vehicle with a minor under the age of 18 present a secondary traffic violation ($250 fine for first offense). The Oregon American Lung Association has additional information online as part of the Smokefree Cars for Kids campaign. Another motor vehicle law of interest for many may be Senate Bill 9 B that increases the fine to a maximum of $500 for using a cell phone or other mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle, some limited exceptions do apply.

A more specific law due to take effect January 1, 2014 is  House Bill 2104 A that will prohibit medical imaging procedures done for any other reason than a medical purpose ordered by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner.  While this bill stops the creation of ultrasound images by nonmedical professional made purely as keepsakes, another bill House Bill 2612 will now permit postpartum mothers to take home their placentas from the hospital if they so wish. Even more unique is House Bill 2025 B that establishes economic liability for bison owners who allow their bison to run at large and cause damage.

Oregon State Legislature Bill and Reports IconsAs you can see there is a new law for almost every occasion. If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, even the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are broken up into the 2013 Regular Session and the 2013 1st Special Session.  From the  Oregon State Legislature website you can search the bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also access a list of just the Senate and House Bills that were actually enacted in the Regular Session and the Special Session.  These reports and a number of other legislative reports can be found by clicking on the Reports icon. You can also learn how an idea becomes law and review a flow chart illustration of the process.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's I’m Just a Bill.    

As always librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we can happily make suggestions about research tools to use to find the information you are seeking.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!



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