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The GOP’s state office dry spell makes this summers weather look like a monsoon. Nonetheless, the GOP is still considered the opposition party in Oregon. Even though it hasn’t put up much opposition in statewide races in the last 10 years. In fact, it’s been 30 years since there has been a Republican Governor.

But could the Democratic favorites be challenged in statewide races this year? Possibly, but it may not be the GOP that presents the Democrats biggest challenges.

For Governor, the only GOP candidates who have announced an intent to run for State offices are Dr. Bud Pierce a medical doctor who has never held elective office who has announced for Governor. And Jeffrey Gudman, a Lake Oswego city councilor who announced his interest for the office of State Treasurer and has started raising money(though less than $10,000 so far).

No Republican has announced their candidacies for Secretary of State or Attorney General. And, given the last several election cycles, serious GOP candidates may be hard to come by given the dominance of the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile rumor has it that Sen. Betsy Johnson (For Governor) and Bend City Council person/ former State Senator/CPA / Lottery Commissioner Chris Telfer (For Treasurer) could end up at the top of the ticket for the new major Party – Independent Party of Oregon. A moderate experienced current State Democratic Senator and a moderate experienced former Republican State Senator is an impressive ticket.

Ms. Telfer has already registered as an IPO member so doesn’t have to announce her candidacy until March, 2016. However, Sen. Johnson is (as far as I know) still a registered Democrat. She would have to register with the IPO by September 10th to be eligible for the IPO nomination so she needs to make a decision in the next two weeks. If she does re-register as an Independent it would be a pretty good indication that she is going to seek the IPO nod for Governor. Though she could re-register but not announce her intent until later. But de-registering from the Democratic Party is a serious matter. You don’t leave fight club.

Another possible sign that Sen. Johnson is going to run as an Independent would be Ms. Telfer’s announcement of her candidacy for Treasurer. Having Johnson and Telfer at the top of the IPO ticket would provide more gravitas to the IPO nomination so would benefit both. And since it would be an historical event, and both Ms. Telfer and Sen. Johnson have a plenty of history here in Oregon to mine, an IPO ticket of Johnson/Telfer should provide the media with a lot of story lines and content. Because frankly, there is little GOP news to cover and little DPO intrigue (Except in the Secretary of State race, which according to The Oregonian Editorial Board is shaping up as a race involving Valdemort, Darth Vadar and Marie Antoinette.

Another reason to announce within the next two weeks is the down ticket effect. With Johnson and Telfer at the top, it would encourage other community leaders such as city councilpersons and school board members who want effective public policy to consider running as an Independent. The bigger the number of qualified IPO candidates statewide, the better it is for the top of the ticket.

Assuming Ms. Telfer and Sen. Johnson decide to run as Independents, which opposition party’s ticket looks stronger for Statewide office? The IPO’s Johnson/Telfer ticket, or the GOP’s Pierce/Gudman ticket.

Yes, it’s still very early and more GOP candidates could announce, and Telfer and Johnson may think it’s too big of a lift and the IPO could end up with your crazy uncle Herb as it’s nominee for Governor. But right now, I’d bet on a Johnson/Telfer ticket over any ticket the GOP could come up with. And if it does pan out, it could signify there is in fact a major shift in Oregon politics, and all those Democrats who say – they really do wish there were a fiscally conservative and Socially liberal opposition party because its good for Oregon – may just be tested on how sincere they really were.

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Harris

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The East Oregonian reported yesterday on the speculation that Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) may be preparing to run for Oregon Governor.

The long time Democrat however is taking a different path. Understanding the difficulty of running as a centrist/conservative Democrat in the Oregon Democratic primary against a sitting liberal Democratic she is reportedly thinking of running as a candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon.

One meeting the East Oregonian didn’t mention in it’s list of hints that Sen. Johnson may run as an IPO candidate was an August 4th presentation to the Bend Chamber of Commerce. There, Sen. Johnson appeared on a political panel that included Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) and two leaders from the IPO, Party Secretary Sal Peralta, and Party Counsel (and Oregon Outpost Editor) Rob Harris.

For the record, Senator Johnson stole the show and thrilled the main street business audience. Her connection to small and medium size town business interests can’t be denied. While she wouldn’t stand a chance in the Democratic primary, a Betsy Johnson / Kate Brown race for Governor would give Oregon voters a real choice in November.

Much more competitive than a race between Kate Brown and a (Pierce / Alley / Wehby) perennial losing GOP candidate. In fact, in a Brown v. Johnson race, the GOP nominee would be the “spoiler”.

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Harris

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The Independent Party has had plenty of good press the last 6 months. And as the August 16th, deadline for finalizing major party status nears, there’s been a bit of excitement.

In May and June the IPO had lost membership due to the post off year primary election purge of inactive voters, and at one point was within 72 members of losing major party status. Then the Democratic and Republican Party leadership teamed up to attack the IPO. But most recently a check with the Secretary of State revealed that the IPO is several hundred voters over the major party threshold and should qualify to be on the May 2016 primary ballot as a major party.

And, this week, the IPO had two members join that some readers may recognize.

On Tuesday August 4th, the Bend Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel on the IPO, featuring IPO Secretary Sal Peralta, IPO Counsel Robert Harris, Rep. Knute Buehler and Sen. Betsy Johnson. During the presentation Bend City Councilperson and former Republican State Senator Chris Telfer casually mentioned from the audience during the Q and A session that she was now an IPO member. In 2012 Telfer was beaten in a contested primary by social conservative Republican Tim Knopp. One of the many recent moderate Republican casualties to the GOP’s rightward drift.

Also this week, 2008 GOP nominee for Secretary of State Rick Dancer (He faced Kate Brown in that election), announced on his blog that he had joined the IPO. Dancer’s 2008 platform was relatively moderate and included making the Secretary of State position non partisan and open primaries. Making him an early proponent of election reform and Democracy protection.

Voters say they want a third party, but are very wary of third parties since historically most have been more radical than the Democrats or Republicans. So credibility for any party claiming to be that mythical “Third Party” is crucial. There are two reasons to believe the IPO may be that mythical Third Party. First more independents, Democrats and Republicans are joining the IPO, so it stands to reason that the party will become relatively centrist as more people join. There just aren’t 110,000 radical voters in Oregon. All other minor parties combined together only number less than 43,000. Those are the more radical thinkers. Meanwhile the GOP and Democratic Party continue to drift right and left respectively. So most voters who join the IPO are clearly not far left or far right, nor feel well represented by the GOP and Democratic Party. Who does that leave? Moderate centrists. And now more well known community leaders are joining the IPO which imparts a stamp of approval to voters. So voters are coming around to the realization that this time, just maybe, there really is a realistic third party choice for Oregon voters and independents.

The IPO as a nascent party that will need care and attention from it’s members. But it is showing great signs of promise.

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I was putting together one article, and stumbled on this topic instead. And I think it describes beautifully what the Independent Party is attempting to bring to the political table.

The term “Transpartisanship” has emerged to provide a meaningful alternative to “Bipartisanship,” and “Nonpartisanship.” Bipartisanship limits the dialogue process to two political viewpoints or entities, striving for compromise solutions. Nonpartisanship, on the other hand, tends to deny the existence of differing viewpoints in exchange for cooperation. Both the bipartisan and nonpartisan approaches can discount the multiplicity of viewpoints that exist, which often results in incomplete and therefore unsuccessful outcomes. In contrast to these, transpartisanship recognizes the existence and validity of many points of view, and advocates a constructive dialogue aimed at arriving at creative, integrated, and therefore, breakthrough solutions that meet the needs of all present.

The IPO doesn’t reject ideology or attempt to ignore the fact that ideology will always exist. In fact ideology is the root of many good and novel ideas and solutions. However, an idealogue – whether conservative or liberal – accepts that political critique must take place on the enlightened grounds of the search for human happiness needs based on the use of reason.

On the other hand, a politically orthodox person may reject compromise and even debate and discussion because they believe there is a transcendent order based on some higher moral authority, and to compromise that order – despite the well reasoned arguments of others – is not possible because reason can’t trump their belief and faith. There can be little compromise with a politically orthodox person.

Bi partisanship relagates the search for better government to a binary argument, where unique solutions are set aside as the two sides coalesce around the most common position. (or the position of the largest and most powerful within the coalition.) Regardless, it results in only two viable solutions.

Non partisanship must fail because it refuses to acknowledge that there are consequential ideological differences within our political system, and without honoring, acknowledging and making provisions for those differences, honorable compromise is unlikely.

The Independent Party, knowingly or not, seems to be a transpartisan political movement. Member surveys have identified four areas that have widespread support among it’s membership. Membership that includes voters from the liberal to conservative ends of the traditional spectrum.

Government has a vital role to play in the marketplace in protecting the little guy from the big guys (consumer protection)
Government has a vital role to play in economic development, but any government benefit to a business must return as much to the taxpayer as it costs. (Taxpayer Return on Investment)
We must reduce the power of money in politics. Campaign finance reform
We should increase job training and education to meet the changing needs of our economy.

By refusing to adopt positions on hot button issues, the IPO has rejected orthodoxy from the political right and left. The IPO doesn’t deny those are important issues to some of the politically orthodox. It just accepts the ideological divide on some issues and that enlightened reason won’t solve a disagreement based on political orthodoxy. But the IPO acting as transpartisan still understands our need to work together on solutions that we do agree on. The IPO doesn’t limit itself to exploring the Republican or Democratic solutions, goals, or ideology only. Campaign finance reform is more of a Progressive Party issue than a Democratic priority. And Taxpayer return on investment is closer to Libertarian model of refraining from interfering in the market through government action, than it is to the Republican platform of granting tax breaks to any big business that asks.

The IPO is an emerging major party. There should be no expectation that because it hit major party status in February 2015 that it also has the same funding, infrastructure and candidate pool that the other major parties have. Developing membership, local member infrastructure, candidate recruitment, and a political bench will take some time. So chillax for a bit and let things develop.

But, if the IPO is transpartisan, you should eventually expect to see non orthodox IPO candidates that span the ideological spectrum *. Candidates pledged to working together for the common good using enlightened reasoning. You should expect to see right of center IPO candidates in the red districts, and left leaning candidates in the blue districts. In fact, you could see a far left candidate as an IPO candidate in a deep blue district if the Democratic candidate there was seen as a TPP backing, CRC spending, Tax Break giving traditional Democrat.

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The May, 2015 voter registration statistics were posted by the Secretary of State, and because of the IPOnormal May off year election inactive voter purges, the IPO numbers shrank. The IPO is now only 72 members above the Major Party status mark. Another month like May and the IPO will lose the right to be on the May 2016 primary ballot. Remember, the IPO opened it’s primary to non affiliated voters, so that means that if the IPO loses 72 members between now and August 15th, 2015, over 640,000 oregon voters, or about 30% lose the right to vote in the May primary.

Are The Democrats and Governor Brown, who passed the Motor voter law to get more voters registered concerned? Yes the are. They are concerned that the IPO will maintain major party status and are doing everything they can – even making league with their Republican Party opponents – to kill the IPO. And in effect, take a vote away from 640,000 Oregonians.

First the Oregon House Rules committee, chaired by a State legislator who thinks she should in charge of all Oregon elections, ambushed IPO leaders when she called a hearing – with less than 48 hours notice to the IPO – to examine major party organizations and how they engage their members. You can bet the Democratic and Republican party leaders were given plenty of notice of the hearing and subject matter.

That hearing was followed within 24 hours by a joint Democratic and Republican press release that claimed to prove that the IPO was a fake party. A March 2015 (!) poll paid for by the Democrats showed that over half of IPO members know they are IPO members. This actually disproves what Democratic operatives have been claiming for YEARS; that almost all IPO members mistakenly joined the IPO when they thought they were registering as not affiliated with any party. The Poll actually shows that only 24% of IPO members thought they were registering a non affiliated. No wonder the Democrats didn’t release this poll in March. The timing of the poll also shows it was commissioned shortly after the IPO reached major party status. No coincidence that.

The Democrats in particular are very concerned that the IPO could shake things up. Because right now things are working very well for them, and change brings uncertainties and unkowns. But IPO leaders and Democratic operatives have been aware of the dynamic the IPO could bring to Oregon elections for some time and how it could threaten the Democratic party’s special interests grip on power. Particularly the Public employee unions grip. And It’s why for the past few years as the IPO has grown, it’s the DPO that has become it’s main adversary.

Todays (July 3rd, 2015) Oregonian Editorial Board praised the IPO and encouraging non affiliated voters, and disenchanted voters of all parties to join the IPO in order to preserve the IPO’s major party status. It recognized that given the current state of the law, and with Democrats in control of the legislature, the IPO offers the only way independent voters can participate in the May primary. And make no mistake, in Oregon’s highly gerrymandered state, in 90% of al legislative races, and all of the statewide races, and all of the federal races, t’s the primary elections that decide who will be elected in November.

In fact, the OEBs argument on the importance of the IPO maintaining major party status was so compelling that several people who commented after reading the opinion volunteered that they had just registered with the IPO. And not one to ignore his own advice, the presumed author of the opinion, OEB Editor Erik Lukens, also posted that he had registered with the IPO to help preserve its major party status.

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Harris

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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.

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Harris

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This year’s legislature has been good to lower paid workers.

Sick leave? check.

Enhanced retirement options for workers who don’t have retirement plan through work? Almost check.

And now Democratic House leaders are introducing a bill that will increase the minimum wage incrementally to $13.00 hour by 2018. (inevitable check)

And lets not forget the Affordable Care Act, assuring that low income workers are able to afford health insurance.

With this increases in minimum wage, paid sick leave, more retirement options, and health insurance guaranteed, the State of Oregon, along with the feds who are supplying the subsidies for health insurance, have “negotiated” some pretty solid contracts with America’s workers.

The 2014 union rate for the US was 11.1%. In Oregon it was quite a bit better at 15.6%. But still…..15.6% is pretty low historically.

Is there correlation between the shift of income from the middle to the top a and the shift of power between capital and labor because of the reduction in the power of private labor unions? And if so, will the enhanced employment requirements passed by the State Legislature help boost the middle class workers situation? Or will the enhanced benefits required by law now remove the reason for lower income workplaces unionize in the first place?

It’s an interesting development, Oregon State is legislating compensation packages for lower paid workers that are substantially better than the typical compensation packages available in other States. It’s acting like a union of last resort. The consequences could be positive – historically higher unionization meant more for the middle class. And it’s certainly better for the lower paid worker. More income to spend in the community. Better protections for workers. Healthier workforce. More incentive to work and save for retirement.

Or could it backfire? Perhaps, besides the obvious danger of a loss of jobs as employers find ways to trim operating expenses, it could also mean that the lower paid less skilled workforce, the one that could arguably benefit most from a strong private union, no longer has a reason to unionize. Of course, unions had been struggling to unionize low wage workers for some time.

Now, if we can just elect some responsible “union” leaders in 2016.

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Harris

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Political ambition over good policy?

How did the Knute Buehler bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives (patch or pill) rather than requiring a doctors visit suddenly get unstuck? And why was it stuck in the first place?

After all Knute’s “free the pill” proposal making contraceptives more readily available to all women seems like a Democratic rockstar of a bill. Now we’ve heard that the price for moving the bill was a promise by Buehler to Val Hoyle that he wasn’t planning on running for Secretary of State.

If he hadn’t made that promise, it appears Oregon Women would be waiting another two years for increased availability and affordability.

Dan not so Meek:

Because of our State constitution Oregon is one of four state with no campaign contribution and spending limits. Yet Campaign finance reform is widely popular. Particularly among the Democratic progressive base.

Pre session then SoS Kate Brown drafted Senate Joint Resolution 5 (SJR5), which would refer Oregonians a State constitutional amendment allowing political contribution limits (Oregon is one of 4 States that have no legal limits on what you can give to a political candidate). But it’s stuck in the Senate largely because of the opposition of a single State Senator.

Though it’s well known that powerful Democratic financiers also oppose any limits on contributions and spending. But now its possible that should SJR5 die, a broad progressive coalition could be ready to file a petition asking Oregon voters to amend the Oregon Constitution allowing laws limiting both contributions and expenditures. A State “Move to Amend” initiative?

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Some gun activists are pretty PO’d about the mandatory universal background check bill (SB 941) – and now law.. In April some Bill opponents announced that they would seek the recalls of Representatives Val Hoyle and Susan McLain, as well as Senator Chuck Riley. And today, BlueOregon reported that the same group was going to file a recall petition against Senator Floyd Prozanski, the chief sponsor of the bill.

How serious are these various recall efforts?

The Signature hurdle: First, keep in mind that the to get the recalls on the ballot, petitioners must submit about 3,000 signatures in the case of a Representative, and 6,000 signatures in the case of a Senator, within 90 days of filing their petition.

That’s a lot of signatures, and a short period of time. And my guess is that getting people to sign a petition to recall an elected so shortly after the election, and for the reason that they voted for a bill the elected always supported, could be more difficult than getting people to sign a petition for legalizing weed. (One possible exception – Rep. Hoyle seems to have been less than candid with gun activists when she sought their support during her election) But, there is just a lack of general widespread outrage. I understand that some people are very outraged, but the unhappiness with the background check law isn’t widely shared. Outrage that’s an inch thick and a mile deep could just as easily repel, not attract, widespread support.

The Money : The petitioners success will depend on organization. Which means money. Lets review ORESTAR and check on their fundraising and spending.

Rep. Susan McLain: Someone wasted $100. Because that’s all thats been contributed to this recall effort as reported by ORESTAR. The petition was filed April 15th.

Rep. Val Hoyle: Raised $4,596, and spent $2,814. Current balance $1,681. Sound more robust. But drilling down you see that $2,734 of the contributions was in kind. Setting up a website. (Note to webmaster. The recall Val Hoyle website doesn’t work on Chrome browser). Petition filed April 14th.

Sen. Chuck Riley: Petitioners raised $2,775, and spent $581. Balance of $2,193. $1,000 contribution made by Timothy R Knight, a Colorado gun activist who helped spearhead the Colorado gun law related recalls. Petition filed April 13th.

Senator Floyd Prozanski: No petition appears on ORESTAR as of today. So nothing to report.

The Petitioners are Serious, The Threat is Not.

The scatter gun approach of going after four officials when they lack sufficient financial support to fund a single recall, and the lack of public outrage that could make up for the lack of funding does not bode well for any of these recall efforts. The petitioners are 30 days into their 90 day campaign and have little to show.

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In modern architecture its said the shape of a building should be based on its purpose. If a core purpose or function of Democracy is to allow all voters meaningful participation in elections, then the current form doesn’t follow function very well.

While the top two primary (Measure 90) failed in November by a wide margin, even many of its opponents said that there was some merit in trying to increase voter participation in primary elections. They also conceded there was some unfairness in taxpayers picking up the tab for the private party nominations for only the Democrats and Republicans. And let’s keep in mind there is nothing in the US or Oregon constitution that mandates our current political party paradigm. Nothing about political parties, or a two party system, or primary elections. It’s all a result of political decisions that can be altered given new facts and realities.

In an October 2014 City Club of Eugene Measure 90 debate Democratic Rep. Phil Barnhart claimed that “Rep. Val Hoyle has a bill on her desk right now that she’s working on to open up the primary process” That bill was apparently HB 3500 which was referred to in Salem as “Rep. Hoyle’s open primary bill”.

The bill was filed March 19th, 2015, and never gained traction. That’s largely because HB 3500 was anything but an “open primary” or any version of election reform. HB 3500 actually would have closed the Oregon primary even more.

As we go forward the question will be:

How committed are the Democrats to election reform?

If you look at recent history, the answer is: Not very. HB 3500 had a hearing but got little support. Largely we hope because it was exposed here on Oregon Outpost as not any type of open primary, but simply a same day registration bill for mail in ballots and a way to get NAV leaners to register as Democrats or Republicans. So when the bill lost support it was decided to set up a study group to consider election reform laws for the next session. A study group generally means, we don’t want reforms. But a study group it is.

The elephant in the room for Democrats is this. Democrats are very proud of their positions on democracy reform. Nationally, they oppose voter ID laws and celebrated the passage of Motor Voter and the expansion of voter rolls. All pro democracy – pro reform ideologically. But, like the Republican Party, are also protective of their prerogatives as a major party. Taxpayer funded nominations. First past the post voting to assure two party control. Closed primaries so their base determines their nominees. Add to that the Democratic and Republican Parties are shedding members like an Akita during a Florida summer, so making it even easier to participate in our Demoracy as a non D or R isn’t really in their best interest. Forcing voters to choose between being a Democrat or Republican is.

Add to that mix two other factors. Gerrymandering and Motor Voter and it becomes even more difficult for Democrats to reconcile their open democracy and full participation philosophy with their desire to maintain political power and control.

What The Democratic (and Republicans) have constructed in legal form through election laws is this. 85% safe Districts. Fewer D and R voters both in real numbers and as a percentage of total voters. A Huge number of new voters because of Motor Voter (Going from about 2.1 million to 2.9 million voters) most of whom will likely be Non affiliated voters, since they won’t be opting for party affiliation at DMV by filling out a registration card as is now required.

Look at where this leads.

The current voter registration is approximately:

Democratic 38%
Republican 30%
Non Affiliated 24.5%
IPO 5%
Other 2.5%

So today the D’s and R’s can at least say that currently almost 70% of all Oregon voters can participate in our primary elections.

But what happens with Motor Voter? Even now half of all new registered voters opt to be non affiliated. For those new passively registered Motor Voters who are initially registered NAV I think it’s fairly safe to say that 80% won’t opt to join any party. And, since the Democratic and Republican Parties are already seeing their market shares decrease (See analysis for who is leaving the D’s and R’s) those two parties will realize significant drops in market shares in total voters even without Motor Voter.

Generously assuming that 20% of the Motor Voters join a party, and they join in the current pro rata shares that exist now, in two years, you can expect the market shares to be something like this:

Democratic 31.5%%
Republican 24.5%
IPO 4%
NAV 38.5%

That would mean that absent election reforms, almost half of Oregon Voters won’t be able to participate in the primary election unless changes are made.

So here’s the political and philosophical dilemma for Democrats – who have the power to write and rewrite the election rules – face.

Do they keep the election rules as they are – which will further empower their party voters but assures that there will be even fewer contested elections and fewer Oregonians eligible to participate in our elections? Or do they follow their political philosophy of empowering voters and expanding our Democracy by reforming our election process. Even if doing so diminishes the power of their political base a sliver?

We’ll soon see. Because the makeup of the study group will tell us all we need to know. And recent history is not on the side of true reform. Word from a reliable source is that when HB 3500 was being drafted and shared with stakeholders, Democratic Leadership’s staff let it be known that the core purpose of HB 3500 was to figure a way to get NAV leaners and new Motor Voters to register as Democrats. Not to empower NAV’s. So just watch the membership of the Study committee. Will it be the most partisan Democrats and Republicans? Or will it include at least one member of Oregon’s third major Party, and a minor party representative, perhaps a well known academic, and maybe even some NAV voters?

We should hope for the best. There are plenty of smart, fair and honest people of all political affiliations who could be appointed to this study committee and who would propose options that widen participation, protect the prerogatives of the parties and further our mutual desire for better more cooperative and more consensus governance.

Or, It could be that depending on who is appointed, the best we can hope is that they don’t come up with yet another proposal that appears to be reform, but just more firmly empowers the Democratic and Republican parties at the expense of all Oregon voters.

If form really does follow function, then the results from the study committee will inform us as to what the Democrats truly believe the function of elections is. To elect Democrats? Or to assure a well functioning Democracy.

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