Do You Know Oregon Civics?

​​​Test Your Knowledge

Civics in its broadest definition is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. These questions and answers focus on civics in relation to the Oregon Constitution, the state's founding document. 

Learn more about how the Constitution was debated and written in the Crafting the Oregon Constitution web exhibit​.


Answer: Three – although they were referred to as departments in the original Constitution.

Learn more in the Oregon Blue Book: Constitution of Oregon >​
Answer: Executive, Judicial and Legislative

Each of these are detailed in the Oregon Blue Book >​
Answer: The Legislative Branch makes the laws; the Executive Branch administers the programs and laws established by the Legislative Branch; and the Judicial Branch​ interprets the laws and ensures that they are being followed.
Answer: Three -Governor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer.

Visit the Oregon Blue Book​ to read more about these officials.
Answer: Things to consider: separation of duties and powers so one individual or office did not have all of the power and control.​
Answer: The original Constitution allowed for 16 members of the Senate, which could not be added to until 1860. After 1860, they could add members as long as they kept the ratio near to 2:1 (Representatives to Senators) and could never exceed the maximum of 30 Senators. Today, Oregon has 30 State Senators. 

Read more about the Legislative Assembly in the Oregon Blue Book​.​
Answer​: The original Constitution allowed for 34 Representatives of the House, which could not be added to until 1860. After 1860, they could add members as long as they kept the ratio near to 2:1 (Representatives to Senators) and could never exceed the maximum of 60 Representatives. Today, Oregon has 60 State Representatives. ​

Read more about the Legislative Assembly in the Oregon Blue Book​.

An​swer: Numbers wise, Oregon's Legislative Assembly is smaller than most other state legislatures and far smaller than the U.S. Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators). However, many states have the same 2:1 ratio of Representatives to Senators like Oregon.

See a comparison with other states in "Crafting the Oregon Constitution​" web exhibit.
A​nswer: Because of its small size, legislators know one another, which often leads to better communication and the ability to work together. However, because of Oregon’s diverse geography, economy and culture, legislators are often dealing with issues unique to their district, which can make cooperation more difficult given the many different perspectives represented in the legislature.
Answer: It didn't.​ Instead it required a vote of the people to determine the state capital and, once the capital was established by the majority of votes, it could not change locations for 20 years. By popular vote in 1864, Salem was chosen as the state capital. In 1958, the Constitution was amended to place the permanent seat of state government in Marion County, and the Capitol remains in Salem today. 

Learn more about choosing the capital in "Crafting the Oregon Constitution​" web exhibit.
​Answer: Many of the same provisions, such as the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms are included in both the state and U.S. Bill of Rights. The most obvious difference is that Oregon’s Bill of Rights is in the front of the Constitution before the main body while the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution comes at the end. Also, Oregon’s Bill of Rights includes over three-dozen sections, some including great detail, while the U.S. Bill of Rights includes the first 10 short and concise amendments to the United States Constitution. 

Answ​er: The Constitutional delegates agreed the issues of slavery and migration of free African-Americans to Oregon were too controversial so they decided to let the people (white men) vote on these issues, in addition to voting to approve the Constitution. The people (white men) voted for the Constitution and to not allow slavery, which meant that Oregon would enter into the Union as a free state. Unfortunately, these same voters also voted to exclude "Negro’s, Mulatto’s and Chinamen" from owning property, residing in or voting in Oregon. Therefore, Oregon became the only state to enter into the Union with an "exclusionary clause" that prohibited certain people from living in Oregon. 

Learn about the debate > 
Answer: Oregon’s experience with civil rights has been marked by great progress and occasional setbacks. 

Oregon was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote (school elections in 1878 and full suffrage in 1912) but was one of the last states to ratify the U.S. Constitution’s 15th Amendment allowing "African men" the right to vote in 1959. Oregon voters didn’t remove the "exclusionary clause" from the State Constitution until 1926, and passed other discriminating laws such as the Compulsory School Act (1922) outlawing religious and other private schools and the Alien Land Act (1923) preventing 1st generation Japanese Americans from owning or leasing land. 

As Oregon moved into the 1950’s, it began to look at laws that were discriminatory and made adjustments. In 1951, the law prohibiting interracial marriages was repealed; in 1953 the Public Accommodations Law was passed prohibiting racial discrimination by businesses; and the Oregon Fair Housing Act passed in 1957. In the 1960’s more laws were passed on the national level, yet racial tensions still existed as Portland experienced race riots in 1967.

In 1973, Oregon ratified the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment and women took on larger roles in Oregon government. Norma Paulus​ was elected Oregon’s first Secretary of State in 1976, Betty Rob​erts​ became the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court in 1982, Margaret Carter was the first African-American woman to be elected to the State Legislature in 1984, and Barbara Roberts​ was elected as Oregon’s first female governor in 1990. In 1988, Ballot Measure 8 passed banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 1992, James A. Hill, Jr., became the first African-American elected to statewide office as state treasurer. By 2000, a bill was passed requiring the removal of racist language from the Oregon Constitution. In 2007, Oregon’s Equality Act passed and a 2014 Ballot Measure passed establishing Equal Rights for women in the Oregon Constitution. ​
Answ​er: The initiative and referendum system in Oregon empowers the people to propose new laws or change the State’s Constitution through a general election ballot measure. This became nationally known as “the Oregon System.” It consists of the:

Initiative – where registered voters may place on the ballot any issue that amends the Oregon Constitution or changes the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS);
Referendum – where registered voters may attempt to reject any bill passed by the Legislature by placing a referendum on the ballot; and 
Referral – where the Legislature may refer any bill it passes to voters for approval. It must do so for any amendment to the Oregon Constitution. 

Both houses of the Legislature must vote to refer a statute or constitutional amendment for popular vote. Such referrals cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Answer: ​The Initiative and Referendum System, also known as the Oregon System, was passed in 1902. It was the creative response to a mix special interests and old political coalitions that the people had become tired of dealing with and Oregon gained national attention as a state leading in progressivism. 

Learn about the effort to create the system​ in "Crafting the Oregon Constitution​" online exhibit.

Oregon State Capitol Now​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Oregon State Archvies image of capitol building with blue sky, clouds and trees in blossom.
The State Capitol in Salem houses the Legislative Branch and the governor as head of the Executive Branch. Learn more about state government in the Oregon Blue Book.

Oregon State Capitol Then​​​​​​​

The Circuit Rider statue stands in front of the 1876 State Capitol
This 1876 Oregon State Capitol in Salem was the first dedicated capitol building after statehood.