HB 3500 – is the symbol of the fight independent voters have been waging for respect. We’ve written about its real and symbolic importance to election reform before. The most current plot twist involves Sen. Betsy Johnson and Sen. Richard Devlin.
HB 3500 had it’s genesis pre session when Rep. Val Hoyle drafted the original version which was erroneously labelled “Hoyle’s open primary bill.” Though what it really did was allow “same day” primary election mail in voter registration bill for the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would have required that every major party primary Ballot be sent to all non affiliated primary voters, along with a party registration card. So if an NAV wanted to vote in May’s partisan primary election, they were forced to vote for and join either the Democratic or Republican Parties. It should have been called “Val Hoyles Democratic and Republican Voter Registration Drive” bill.
But Oops! Developments throw a monkey wrench into the plan.
In February the Independent Party achieved major party status. So sending all major party ballots no longer seemed like a good idea to Democrats and Republicans. Democratic insiders gutted HB 3500 and stuffed it with a provision to create a task force of 17 members who would study how to increase NAV voter participation in elections. So far so good. But That task force amendment never had a public hearing, no public testimony was given. No written testimony was allowed. It was rushed through the House Rules by Rep. Hoyle, then mysteriously rather than going to the Senate Rules where it normally would have gone and where Sen. Diane Rosenbaum could have fixed the bill by amendment, it went to the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government.
That’s where the fireworks occurred this week.
But some on the Joint Committee were unhappy that of the 17 task force members, 12 would be appointed by Democrats and only 4 by Republicans. (The 17th, being the Secretary of State). But it was Betsy Johnson who pointed out it’s other big flaw. Even though there are slots on the task force for Republican and Democratic electeds (4) and for “representatives of major parties to be appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders (4 more), and for minor parties an non affiliate voters, and the League of Women Voters, and “an organization that does voter registration drives” (Bus project anyone), and even for a “Oregon Elector” (Mark Frohnmayer?) there is no slot for the third major party, the Independent Party of Oregon which has been at the forefront of election reforms and has over 100,000 members. The Libertarian (16,000 members) or Working Families Parties (9,000 members) and even the Progressive Green Party (about 2,500 members) – may be represented, but a major party making up 110,000 Oregonians is not included.
When Sen. Johnson raised some questions about why the bill didn’t include an IPO representative, The Chair of the Committee took a break and indicated they’d ask Val Hoyle or one of her staff to come down and explain the bill more and answer questions. But when the committee reconvened, there was no one from Hoyle’s office in the committee room.
Someone else had appeared though, and if you watch the video of the committee hearing below, you can see him sitting at a committee chair, staring at Sen. Johnson, then ambling over to take her seat. That’s Sen. Richard Devlin, using his prerogative as the Senate Leader to remove Betsy Johnson from the committee and taking her vote himself.
There would be no discussion, or explanation in public of why the IPO was not included on this commitee. Just like there would be no public hearings, or allowing any public testimony on the gut and stuff in House Rules. And when someone even asked to have an explanation of the bill from Hoyle, the order was out to Devline office. Go down to the hearing and roll her over.
But before she leaves, Sen. Johnson makes a powerful statement, indicting the drafters and backers of this bill as being anti democratic and unfair and she promised to vote against the bill when it reaches the floor. Sen. Johnson then storms out of the committee room and Sen. Devlin fills her seat.
The final vote was to pass the bill to the Senate floor by a vote of 5-2.
Voting against HB 3500 along with Sen. Johnson were; Democratic Representative Betty Komp and Republican Senator Doug Whitsett. Independent voters thank you and respect your fairness.
Voting for the bill that disenfranchises 110, 000 Oregon voters from having a representative on the election reform task force were:
Democratic Sen. Richard Devlin
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
Democratic Rep. Nancy Nathanson
Democratic Representative Kathleen Taylor
Republican Rep. Greg Smith
Here’s another odd thing. They didn’t have to roll Sen. Johnson, the vote was 5-2 to move the bill. If Sen. Johnson had been allowed to vote, it still would have moved by 4-3.
So, why is it so important for the Democratic leadership to make sure the IPO not only isn’t represented on this task force, but that no public hearings are held. No written testimony is allowed, no discussion be allowed, and that if anyone wants to debate it and open it to public scrutiny, that they take swift, decisive and overwhelming tactics to quash it?
There is one possibility. An informed source stated that some high ranking public employee union political operatives have been heard to say that the growth of the IPO represents one of their biggest challenges. If so, then the obvious response from Democratic political operatives would be to crush any toehold the IPO had. Even if it meant disrespecting a senior member of your own caucus.
To watch Sen. Devline Roll Over Sen. Johnson, and listen to her statement, go to the link below. The events are near the end of the video. Hover over the last dot on the timeline and HB 3500 will appear. That’s the start of the sequence. Get some popcorn.