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An overview of the bond and local option election process

Oregon school districts, education service districts and community colleges can issue general obligation bonds only if they have voter approval of a bond levy authorizing them to do so. Districts can receive this authorization at any election with at least a 50 percent turnout and a majority approving the measure. The only exception is the general election in even-numbered years which has no turnout requirement.

Election dates

School measures can be submitted to voters on the following dates (ORS 255.345).

  • Second Tuesday in March
  • Third Tuesday in May
  • Third Tuesday in September
  • First Tuesday after the first Monday in November

For an election calendar visit the Oregon Elections Calendar.

Notice of election

Districts must file the notice of election with the county clerk 61 days prior to the election date (ORS 255.085). Bond counsel prepares the notice of election as an attachment to the resolution calling an election. The notice must include:

Districts must file the notice of election with the county clerk 61 days prior to the election date (ORS 255.085). Bond counsel prepares the notice of election as an attachment to the resolution calling an election. The notice must include:

  • The purpose for which the bonds will be used.
  • The amount and term of the bonds.
  • The kind of bonds proposed for issue.

The notice of election includes the ballot title, which is the actual wording that appears on the printed ballot. Oregon law requires the ballot title to provide a reasonably detailed, simple and understandable description of the use of proceeds (ORS250.037(3)). Consequently, districts should write the ballot title using survey data in presenting the issue so that it reflects community priorities and concerns and is easy for voters to understand.The district’s bond counsel should review the district-drafted ballot title to be sure it meets all legal and statutory requirements. Failure to consult with bond counsel could result in an invalid ballot title and an invalid election.

Publishing requirements

The elections officer in the county clerk’s office is required to publish notice of the election in a newspaper of general circulation in the district.

The elections officer also is required to publish a facsimile of the ballot not later than the day of the election nor sooner than 15 days before the election (ORS 255.095). The elections officer is responsible for preparing the official ballot for the election as well as conducting the election.

Voting by mail

Under current law, mail ballots may be used at any election other than the May primary or November general elections. Use of vote-by-mail is at the discretion of the county clerk under supervision of the Secretary of State. County clerks in all Oregon counties now conduct all elections except the May primary and November general elections by mail. In addition, a majority of voters are requesting absentee ballots for the primary and general elections. As a result, districts should consider all elections vote-by-mail and plan election timelines according to the county clerk’s mailing schedule. The vote-by-mail law requires ballots to be mailed to registered voters not sooner than 20 days before the date of the election and not later than the 5th day before the election. To be counted ballots must be received by the county clerk by 8 p.m. on election day. Voters may return ballots by mail or in person (ORS 254.456).

Information on Oregon's county clerks is available on the Secretary of State's Election Division website.This information is taken from OSBA’s Oregon School Bond Manual which is designed as a guide to help school district, education service district and community college officials understand their long- and short-term borrowing options.

Bond and local option election activities timelines

Bond and local option election data

Bond election ballot title wording requirements

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