Pro and Con on Measure 90 - Open primary elections

Measure 90 – Open primary elections

Summary: Changes general election nomination processes: provides for single primary ballot listing candidates; top two advance

Yes, by Phil Keisling

Ensuring full and equal voting rights for all citizens is a core principle of our democracy — which is why Oregonians should pass Measure 90 to create a truly open primary election system.

African Americans supposedly won full voting rights in 1865. But many states’ poll taxes and literacy tests made a mockery of that guarantee until 1965’s Voting Rights Act. Until Oregonians approved a 1912 ballot measure — on the fourth try — women couldn’t vote. Native Americans didn’t secure this right until the 1920s.

Today, more than 650,000 Oregon voters are still denied full and equal access to the election system they (and all taxpayers) pay for. That’s because 30 percent of all Oregon voters — and nearly 50 percent of those 30 and younger — have chosen to register either as non-affiliated voters or with a minor political party.

These 650,000 voters now are locked out of Oregon’s closed party primary elections, unable to cast primary election ballots for key offices like U.S. senator, congressional representative, governor and the state legislature. These disenfranchised voters could fill Autzen Stadium 12 times over, totaling more than the populations of Eugene, Springfield, Bend, Salem, Corvallis, Albany, Medford and Roseburg combined.

Even Oregon’s 1.4 million Democrats and Republicans are now unable to cast primary ballots for quality candidates of another party. Republicans living in legislative or Congressional districts that are heavily Democratic — or vice versa — know their primary votes are largely wasted on nominees with little or no chance of winning.

A recent analysis by The Oregonian showed that nearly 90 percent of Oregon’s 2014 legislative races were effectively decided in last May’s low-turnout primary elections. It’s now common for candidates to essentially win office with the support of just 7 to 10 percent of the total electorate.

Measure 90 would give all Oregon voters, regardless of their own party registration or lack thereof, the same primary ballot for state and local offices in each election cycle. All candidates would be listed (again, regardless). Every voter could then choose the best candidate (yes, regardless) — and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election ballot.

Measure 90 would ensure full and equal voting rights for all Oregonians.

Yes, some general elections might feature two finalists of the same party. But isn’t a truly competitive race in November, even if between two Democrats in a heavily Democratic district, far preferable to that election being a sham contest?

And candidates of all political parties, major and minor, would have to earn a slot on the November general election ballot. The last minor party candidate actually elected to a state legislative office in Oregon was in 1974, 40 years ago.

Measure 90 can’t cure everything that makes today’s politics so dysfunctional and distasteful to our citizens. But what it does do — enfranchise all Oregonians to fully participate in their election system in every election — is a huge step forward.

Phil Keisling served as the Oregon Secretary of State from 1991 to 1999.

No, by Liz Marlia-Stein

As Oregon strives to ensure all registered voters exercise their right to vote, Oregon’s Measure 90 threatens this freedom. Contrary to what proponents of the measure think, the measure will limit voters’ choices and decrease voter participation. It may eliminate non-affiliated and minor-party candidates, forcing voters to choose from just two major-party candidates in the general election.

Voters in Oregon have long enjoyed choosing from a diverse list of candidates in general elections. Measure 90 would end this practice.

In Oregon, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Progressive Party, the Libertarian National Committee and the Pacific Green Party all oppose Measure 90. Oregon’s Democratic Party platform states: “We believe all political parties should be free to choose from their own candidates for public office by popular vote of their members.” Oregon’s Republican Party also opposes the measure, stating: “Oregon now has an elections system that works. Citizens freely associate to choose who shall represent them, based on commonly held beliefs, in the tradition of our republic.”

Many voters, particularly young people, do not identify with the major parties, and they would lose the ability to choose the candidate best representing their interests. Also, using the top-two system around the state, two candidates from the same party could become the only choices in the general election, preventing an authentic choice. An increase in voter apathy and a decrease in voter participation are predictable.

Voter turnout fell in California and Washington after adopting the top-two system. Last June’s California primary set a record for the lowest turnout in the state’s history.

The reduced voter turnout resulting from a top-two system would be evene more drastic in primary elections, which already have a much lower voter turnout than general elections. In primaries, 58 percent is older than 60 and 95 percent are white. Measure 90 would unquestionably give greater voice and power to this group while disenfranchising certain demographics. An electorate needs more choice and greater diversity, not less.

Some Oregonians choose not to vote because of the time it takes to wade through the candidates and select who will best represent them. Can you imagine the complexity Measure 90 will impose if it passes? Voters would have to do even more research. Even worse, during the presidential election years, Oregon would need to hold two separate primaries with different sets of rules: a partisan primary for presidential nominees and a top-two primary for all other offices.

Sadly, the effort to pass Measure 90 is funded almost entirely by three large corporations, a large Oregon corporate lobbying group and wealthy, out-of-state individuals.

In 2008, Oregon’s electorate intelligently rejected this same proposal by a 2-to-1 margin. This year, the independent Citizens’ Initiative Review panel rejected Measure 90 by a 14-5 vote, saying “M90 limits the voice of minority voters, minor parties and grassroots campaigns.”

We must not give corporate and out-of-state interests the right to dictate how our election system will be structured for the future. Our democracy works best when our people have increased choice and greater voice.

Liz Marlia-Stein is political action chair for the Democratic Party in Yamhill County.


I Am Darren Wilson

So that is a STRONG YES VOTE on Measure 90!

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