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Oregon SOS Launches Crowdfunding Effort To Restore Original State Constitution


Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson shows off the original state constitution to visitors at the Oregon Capitol.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson shows off the original state constitution to visitors at the Oregon Capitol.

Chris Lehman/OPB

Oregon’s original constitution is badly in need of some TLC.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday to restore and protect the document. The Republican, who took office last month, kicked off the fundraising effort by greeting visitors to the state capitol rotunda while holding the original state constitution in white-gloved hands.

“Be part of history. Contribute whatever you can,” Richardson asked onlookers. “It can be a dollar; it could be as much as you can afford.”

Richardson wants Oregonians to pitch in $100,000. That’s to restore the document and build a new display case for it. Richardson says the current case leaves the historic document vulnerable.

“Anybody that came could break that glass and just grab the document and take off. So we need to make sure that it’s protected in all ways,” Richardson said.

In addition to being bulletproof, the new case would be climate controlled to protect the thin pages from further deterioration. The current case is neither of those things.

Oregon State Archivist Mary Beth Herkert tells visitors to the Oregon capitol about the original state constitution. The Secretary of State's office says the current display case leaves the document vulnerable to theft and climate-induced degradation.

Oregon State Archivist Mary Beth Herkert tells visitors to the Oregon capitol about the original state constitution. The Secretary of State’s office says the current display case leaves the document vulnerable to theft and climate-induced degradation.

Chris Lehman/OPB

The effort to restore the document started several years ago under then-Secretary of State Kate Brown. She made a pitch to Oregon schoolchildren to contribute coins. That has yielded about $6,000 so far, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The fundraising efforts are now open to all Oregonians, through a donation site that includes such incentives as a commemorative lapel pin or a personally signed thank-you note from Richardson.

The Oregon Constitution has been amended dozens of times since statehood. The original version contains provisions that would be repugnant to modern-day sensibilities, including a section that banned African-Americans from moving to the state. Oregon voters removed that section in 1926.

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