Measure 65: A no-win scenario

Carla Hanson

By Carla "KC" Hanson of Portland, Oregon. Carla is the chair of the Multnomah County Democratic Party. Previously, she contributed "Oregon Sports Action Laid to Rest"

Measure 65 is the like proposing amputation to cure a hangnail, effecting a package of unintended consequences that will limit voters’ choices rather than enhance them. Whether a voter identifies with a party or not, the field of candidates under Measure 65 could be severely trimmed well before the Primary vote even occurs, and Oregonians will be deprived of choices because of it.

Instead of Democrats (or Republicans) in a given district being able to decide whom they like best in a field of 3 or 4 in the existing system, there would be a natural tension and pressure to limit major party candidates to no more than 2, and maybe one. Threatened will be the opportunity to select a candidate from a field of quality individuals from various backgrounds.

In a “top two” system, each party would be forced into a game of strategy months before the March filing deadline. Pressure from parties, and from moneyed interests (often from out-of-state), would be enormous, and the chances of enthusiastic, qualified but un-vetted candidates entering the process would be limited. Potential candidates would have to decide whether their candidacy would actually be in conflict with their social and altruistic goals, because too many candidates of a particular stripe could ensure that ALL of them lose, even if that stripe most accurately represents the District.

The situation created by Measure 65 is a no-win scenario. Either a potential candidate from a major succumbs to the pressure from the party and decides against running, or s/he takes the chance, runs against the favored candidate and risks eliminating both.

Smaller parties could put forth candidates, but as long as Republican and Democratic Parties exist, smaller parties will NEVER see their candidates advance to the general election. Measure 65 does nothing to enhance the viability of the Green, Working Families, Independent Party or any other small party registered in Oregon. Measure 65 will further limit their impact and silence their voices.

The majority of voters in Oregon have consciously chosen to affiliate with particular parties based on shared values and philosophies. We rightfully expect to be able to choose our own party’s nominees along with other similarly aligned Oregonians. Likewise, the non-affiliated voter has consciously made that choice, in effect declaring that s/he is not interested in participating in the partisan primary process. Skewing the system so radically doesn’t “solve” any problems for the unaffiliated voter; it simply creates a huge problem for all Oregon voters.

The Multnomah County Democratic Party has voiced its strong opposition to Measure 65. As Democrats, we share core philosophies, yet possess a wide range of viewpoints. We believe ALL these viewpoints should have the forum for expression in the primary election, and that primary voters should be enabled to vote for whomever best represents their philosophies.

Measure 65 limits the choice Oregon voters deserve.

We encourage Oregonians to vote NO on Measure 65.

Comments

  • ValkRaider (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Measure 65 is the new Measure 37.

    Sounds good in ballot title, not so nice in practice.

  • (Show?)

    And like Measure 37, it will probably pass. Let the electioneering gamesmanship begin!

  • George Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Thank you, KC, for this. I had the same realization today about the draconian results of M65: it's like saying that your shoes pinch a bit so WHACK, off come the toes. I'm getting a rising sense of watching a trainwreck here, the feeling of being helpless while watching something terrible, knowing that the ramifications will spread for a long, long time.

    Hat's off to the proponents, who invented a grievance (not being able to vote in the primary of a party to which they don't belong) and have turned it into a Sorcerer's Apprentice of an initiative.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The flow of irrational invective pouring out from opponents of Measure 65 is truly extraordinary. I've been seeing a lot of rhetoric, but so far, no proof. And not very good logic either.

    Have the opponents no sense of history? Where were you during the 16 years that right wing zealots shackled the legislature and prevented any meaningful action on education financing, health care and environmental protection? Phil Keisling, the chief proponent of Measure 65, started pushing this idea at the height of the Republican reign of terror. The same kind of ideological paralysis could happen again.

    Go out to the rural districts that are predominately Republican. Even in these GOP strongholds, you'll find roughly 30 percent of the registered voters are Democrats. Maybe another 15 percent independents. Probably another 5 to 10 percent are moderate Republicans who might actually make a compromise at some point.

    So the wingnuts comprise a minority even in conservative districts. But they win in the Republican primary because the base turns out in droves. And either there is no Democratic candidate or the Democrats' sacrificial lamb doesn't have a chance. On the other hand, a reasonably centrist candidate could get elected if unfettered by party labels.

    That's why I'm voting for Measure 65.

    The critics of Measure 65 are coming up with all sorts of crazy, unlikely scenarios, as if this system has never been tried before. The "top=two" primary is exactly the way we elect our mayor, city council, district attorney and county commission. Do you see any of the weird crap postulated by K.C. and others playing out in municipal elections? It seems to me to be desperation scare tactics by the party insiders who are trying to cling to their power.

  • (Show?)

    A hangnail?

    When one November ballot after another has races that get won by 70, 80, 90% of the vote, that is a significant problem.

    When my state rep has to practically apologize for running an active general election campaign because people are so used to seeing him coast into another term, that is a significant problem.

    When popular, community-oriented representatives can be chased out of office with a few thousand votes in a closed primary for making a single vote that's unpopular with an interest group, that is a significant problem.

    When Democrats and Republicans unwittingly forsake their ability to sign a petition for an independent candidate simply by returning a ballot, that is a significant problem.

    When not one, but two bills to overturn that last law get killed in committee without public input, that is a significant problem.

    And we haven't even gotten to the significant policy issues that have plagued Oregon in the 17 years I've been here -- a senseless tax system, being relegated to defense on sensible land use regulation, etc. etc.

    Reasonable people can disagree on what the best system might be, but to suggest the problems of the current system as a mere hangnail -- to me that just sounds very out of touch.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    At the risk of overdoing it, I'm posting a second time to take on K.C.'s points one-by-one. I really wasn't so passionate about this measure until I started seeing the nonsense and non sequiturs emanating from the opposition.

    K.C. writes: "...there would be a natural tension and pressure to limit major party candidates to no more than 2, and maybe one. Threatened will be the opportunity to select a candidate from a field of quality individuals from various backgrounds."

    Who says? Do you mean to say that someone with enough ego to run for office is going to kowtow to party bosses?

    "Pressure from parties, and from moneyed interests (often from out-of-state), would be enormous, and the chances of enthusiastic, qualified but un-vetted candidates entering the process would be limited."

    This, as well as the paragraph above it, is absolutely unsubstantiated. As I see it, the pressure from parties will be considerably less, since a candidate would not have to affiliate with a party at all. Legislative races are all about grass roots. Sure, each candidate will have to knock on more doors, since the primary won't be limited to just one party, but that means candidates will meat a broader cross-section of their district.

    "Smaller parties could put forth candidates, but as long as Republican and Democratic Parties exist, smaller parties will NEVER see their candidates advance to the general election."

    So tell me, how many minor party candidates in Oregon have ever won a partisan election? Are all minor parties satisfied to by merely spoilers? If we had an open primary, I could see registering as a Pacific Green. But under the current system, I'm forced to register as a Democrat, because that's where all the action is in the primaries in my district.

    In fact, it's conceivable that some very liberal members of the legislature or Congress might change their registration to Pacific Green, since their name familiarity is more important than party identification. That would give the Greens a huge boost. And if a handful of legislators were Greens, they would hold significant power in Salem if no other party had a clear majority.

  • (Show?)

    The Washington County Democratic Party, like our brothers and sisters in Multnomah County, oppose Measure 65, as stated in our Voting Guides and other publications. Some changes in Oregon election law may be desirable, but M65 will reduce choice for voters, cloud Party selections and likely eliminate opportunities for many potential candidates to run for office. We urge a NO vote for Measure 65. www.washcodems.org

  • George Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    These responses make clear that, rather than a neutral change, the objective of M65 is to produce specific results more to the liking of the backers.

    Gil Johnson is unhappy about overwhelmingly conservative districts electing candidates that win GOP primaries, and suggests that these districts will somehow elect centrists if they can be "unfettered" by party labels. Funny, we've got the same primary system in use today as when Tom McCall was elected, and Mark Hatfield, and Wayne Morse all the other warhorses whose names are trotted out as evidence of a bygone Golden Age when these statesmen didn't soil themselves with anything so crass as party politics.

    He asks "Who says? Do you mean to say that someone with enough ego to run for office is going to kowtow to party bosses?" -- without realizing that the whole argument he's been making is that our politics suck because of the parties are overly powerful -- and, presumably, overly powerful parties have overly powerful party "bosses."

    Johnson continues:

    So tell me, how many minor party candidates in Oregon have ever won a partisan election? Are all minor parties satisfied to by merely spoilers? If we had an open primary, I could see registering as a Pacific Green. But under the current system, I'm forced to register as a Democrat, because that's where all the action is in the primaries in my district. In fact, it's conceivable that some very liberal members of the legislature or Congress might change their registration to Pacific Green, since their name familiarity is more important than party identification. That would give the Greens a huge boost. And if a handful of legislators were Greens, they would hold significant power in Salem if no other party had a clear majority.

    Well, anything can be conceived, but it's interesting to see this show up in a post that also blasts M65 opponents for unsubstantiated conjectures.

    As for all the "action" occurring in the Democratic primary forcing you to register as a Democrat, is that a problem for you? Which Democratic candidates exactly do you object to?

    Pete Forsyth says, without explanation, that "When one November ballot after another has races that get won by 70, 80, 90% of the vote, that is a significant problem." Gosh, I like it when my candidates win big -- tends to be part of that whole democracy thing, where politicians who are doing what their constituents like get rewarded with the opportunity to do more of it. What exactly is the problem with winning big? If you say it's because the districts are gerrymandered, then I invite you to propose the districts that don't look blue as hell in Portland and red as hell in LaGrande.

    (We could have a good conversation about switching to multimember districts and electing via proportional or semi-proportional voting methods that let the majority win the most seats in the district but ensure that some representation in proportion to strength is provided for minority views. That's a great idea, and it would benefit Oregon a lot. But that's not what's being proposed here at all.)

    I think it was Maxine Waters who said "You can't take the politics out of politics." M65 is a wonk's dream of some pure political valhalla that is conducted without any of those nasty old "politicians." Good luck with that.

  • KC Hanson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Well, I see Kari has posted my Op-Ed...

    For Gil,

    Minor party candidates have ability to be in the general election now, and the scenario seems less likely with the "top two" system.

    Comparing City to House is apples/oranges - different bodies, gov. structures, tasks at hand. And let's not forget there is also the public financing option available in Portland.

    Pete,

    In in Districts 42 and 45, you'll see those high win #s for Kopel-Bailey and Dembrow, respectively. Those districts have significant Dem registration, and there were heavy battles to be the Dem nominees, so I disagree that it is a "problem" that they now can coast to victory.

    There was a fierce competition to become the Oregon Attn. General on the Dem side; nothing on the Republican side. How would M65 make this better? It would simply force a do over in the fall.

    Your other citations fall beyond the "solution" of M65.

    For Everyone,

    I wrote this a few weeks back (Poor Kari has been overloaded with submissions), and while I am adamantly as opposed now as I ever was to this measure, over the past few weeks, I realized something fairly striking: both proponents and opponents can only postulate how this system will operate... and in every district their will be different reprecussions....

    It's tempting to name districts and play seer, but the fact that I and a host of others on both sides are "counting" District registration numbers even now and speculating the "what if"s illustrates what a snake pit this could become prior to the filing deadline.

    Gil has accused me of crying wolf, but it's up to the the proponents for M65 to prove to all of us that this won't happen. Plainly, they cannot, because none of us knows what kind of well-moneyed interests will see an opening in a new Oregon elections environment, push the envelope and load the dice well before the March deadline, and then wreak havoc afterwards.

    So there it is, Gil. I'm not throwing out invectives (I have insulted no one), I am just worried about real possibilities.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If Multnomah county Democrats and the OEA are vocally against M65, then it must have some merit.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I gave this a NO vote simply because it is too confusing for the average voter - it's explination and it's supposed implementation if passed. Those two factors make it a ripe candidate for someone to challenge it in the coutrs if passed and I, for one, do not relish having another measure dissapear because of the courts. the arguments on both sides cemented that confusion.

    I rather would vote NO and avoid all the pain of interpreting it's real intentions than have my vote wasted by the courts by voting yes.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Thanks for writing this, KC...and thank you Kari for posting it. Our elections process isn't perfect and I understand the arguments of the sponsors, but the most likely result is to limit choices for all, not open them up. To use the imagery from the last presidential debate, we need to use a scalpel to fix the problems in the system---Measure 65 is a hatchet.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "To use the imagery from the last presidential debate, we need to use a scalpel to fix the problems in the system---Measure 65 is a hatchet."

    yep...like making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Steve Packer (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If measure 65 passes, one has to ask what interest the state has in registering party affiliation. The purpose today is clear, it provides a method of choosing the partisan ballot for each voter. However, without a general need for a partisan ballot, the expense of unique ballots for each precinct is very suspect. And, the election offices would be greatly relieved to rid themselves of both the ballots and the counting of elected party officers. Further, the number of precincts could be greatly reduced since we have neither voting places nor unique ballots. If we are starting down this path, we should have public hearings and a well worked new law, not another partial solution initiated by a ballot measure.

  • (Show?)

    Although I voted no on this measure and encouraged others to do the same, I am beginning to come around to the idea that we need to give it a shot. It is so rare to see an actual reform on the ballot, submitted by people of good will and debated on both sides by people of good will.

    The issue is that we all hold different assumptions about how it will play out. And by "all" I mean even those on the same team. I actually share many of Phil Keisling's goals, I just think this won't work. On the other hand, some people who are opposed to Keisling's goals think it will work, so they join me in opposition. So strange! I know I'm in strange waters when I'm opposing John Kitzhaber on anything (the US Senate primary notwithstanding).

    I'm just curious enough that I now think maybe we should pass it just to see how it works. And I think it will pass, too.

  • (Show?)

    A thirteen person research committee from the City Club of Portland reached these conclusions. Measure 65:

    • is unlikely to reduce partisanship
    • is unlikely to increase voter participation
    • will likely reduce the variety of political viewpoints
    • will likely increase campaign costs
    • will likely increase the influence of wealthy donors

    Extensive analysis and discussion leading to these conclusions is on pages 15 to 31 of this report:

    City Club of Portland Report

  • KC Hanson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Everyone will be interested to know that the Oregonian has come out with yet another Ed Board OpEd in favor of 65, touting Kitzhaber's support (and including an enormous mug of him)

    Interestingly, it paints party and union opposition to M65 in colors fitting of characterization by Frank Lunz: (party "bosses" and unions with "unprecedented power in Salem"). The board even goes as far as saying that "Oregon's closed primary is a vestige of the smoke filled rooms of the 19th century, when political parties had a tight grip over elections"

    Oh please, tell that to 236k voters who cast ballot in the primary in Multnomah County alone.

    Let's cut the ridiculous hyperbole and address the real facts. The grassroots membership of the parties, both at state and county level, voted to oppose M65. A number of unions, whose membership is comprised of thousands of hard working Oregonians, opposed the measure based on the vote of membership.

    Smoke filled rooms? Well, the 21st century version may hit stride if this thing passes; I do believe the pressure will be enormous prior to the filing deadline to trim candidate fields. I referrred in my original post "pressure from the parties," but to clarify, this won't be about what the collection of PCPs from Multnomah County thinks, or about what the aggregate of Dem volunteers think statewide.

    This will be about money - what players both within and beyond the party structures can adequately fund candidates through 2 competitive races.

    Do we really want a system that emphasizes money in campaigning even more than it does now?

  • Steve Packer (unverified)
    (Show?)

    As a nation, we have had a long history of distrust of political parties but they serve a purpose or they would have died out long ago. Individuals can have little impact on the political process, especially if you are lacking sufficient funds, but a group of like-minded people with persistence and vision can affect change. A large group can dilute the impact of an individual so it is not surprising that some would seek a smaller group when their ideas do not achieve traction in a large and established group.

    However, we live under a set of philosophical beliefs written down 200+ years ago that give some weight to geographical location and winner-take-all by region. Minor opinions get no representation at all, especially when they are not center-right. I happen to like proportional representation but such a radical idea is not likely to have many supporters, especially when vote counting is even more complicated than we have now. However, fusion voting and same-day registration are both small steps we can take to encourage participation and honor opinions that are more than one standard deviation from center-right.

    Over the years, a number of systems for voting have been tried and we should look at a few of them so as to avoid repeating history. My experience in Minnesota certainly has influenced my opinion of the value of non-partisan balloting where I believe the party had to use a caucus system because of the cost of a general ballot. To me, the caucuses seemed much like Howard Dean’s neighbor to neighbor program and I rather liked both the thrill of the caucus vote and the neighborhood focus. However, there was a cost. Participation was very low and the party was easily hijacked by a determined minority. I believe that forcing the parties to a caucus system will reduce participation and reduce the opportunity for expression of minority opinions in the party nomination process. I prefer to have our party nominees successfully face 40% of the voters rather than just the 10% who are activists.

  • (Show?)

    Good discussion, once again. Jeff's last comments: "I'm just curious enough that I now think maybe we should pass it just to see how it works," reflect a part of the spirit that has driven many other progressives like me to support M 65.

    We all know our current politics is toxic and just not working. (We could get in a long discussion about why...). Oregon has sunk from being a state that solves problems--with help from people of both parties--to a state that keeps cutting and cutting and eventually settling for new low-bar circumstances. (Think transportation funding, higher ed., public schools, arts, and on and on). Worse, we don't even have serious and rigorous discussions about fixing our state's biggest problems. Not in Salem and certainly not during campaigns.

    M 65 is appealing, in part, because it creates a CHANCE to change the very nature of our discourse. There's no guarantee it will lessen the hyper-partisanship, but there is a CHANCE that it will. I firmly believe it will. I like innovation, not for its own sake, but when it is trying to address a problem and develops a theory of change with a serious proposal for remedy. By making our elections more competitive, by INCLUDING ALL VOTERS in the primary selection process, I believe that the dialogue on the doorstep and in the capitol will be better. The top two component is an extension of fairness so that all winning candidates will have received support from a majority of the electorate. Imagine that. Candidates will have to develop ideas that resonate with a wider swath of our community, and in so doing, will be more empowered to advocate for those ideas if they are elected.

    I appreciate some of the arguments of opponents. Some campaigns could be more expensive, some won't, others will be no different from today, and it is just as likely that the same amount of money will get spent but will be spent on more races forcing a different type of grassroots campaigning.

    M 65 will give us a better chance to enact meaningful campaign finance reform. The interest groups who oppose M 65 also oppose campaign finance innovations. (They are also the folks who opposed vote by mail...). If we elect a few more people who are a little less beholden to monied interests on the left and right, maybe, just maybe, we will have enough courage to enact campaign funding reforms the monied interests quietly, but effectively, opppose.

    Finally, we get distracted when we think that M 65 is about political parties. It's not. It is about voters. Letting every voter vote in the primaries is just common sense and is not something any of us should be afraid of.

    Most voters could not care less about political parties. Our evolving modern lives are too complicated to identify with or defer to political parties. Moreover, parties will gain a little more recognition under M 65 since party endorsements will be listed on the ballot. Fancy that.

    Let's follow Jeff Alworth's metamorphis, and vote for M 65, and let innovation (aka CHANGE) reign in this election cycle. Having a whole bunch of Dem's elected everywhere will be great, but we need to give them new political tools to allow them to behave more effectively, more independently of monied interests, and able to work across the aisle to solve the great problems of the day.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "maybe we should pass it just to see how it works"

    Which is why it is ripe for a court challenge if passed.

    It's just a gut feeling - primarily because it is so simular to many other measures in the past that passed but got killed by the courts.

  • Steve Snyder (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I moved out here years ago from Wisconsin where we had open primaries. Voters could vote in either party's primary regardless of party affiliation. The winners of the open primary would appear on the general election ballot as Dems and Repubs along with minor party candidates. This was not a "top two" contest. The system worked well even though there were times when crossover voters upset party stalwarts eg George Wallace received a significant number of votes in the 1968 primary.

    If the concern is making the primaries open to all voters, what does the top two aspect of M65 have to do with making the primary accessible to all voters?

  • (Show?)

    The Oregonian's editorial page editor, Bob Caldwell, picked up this piece this morning: Kitzhaber gets it right on Oregon Measure 65

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Thanks, Chris.

    Interesting thing about politics: are elections about the candidates, campaign staff, parties, etc?

    Or are elections about voters?

    This is a huge philosophical difference.

    My support for 65 comes in part because I believe that over more than a decade politics has become too professionalized. "If we can get people talking about our commercials, if we target the right voters, if we have enough people on phone banks.................."

    What if a voter is looking for a candidate who makes sense and wants to solve problems? Or a candidate who they have actually met (local and legislative)?

    Carville and Begalla wrote a book once with a long title like "Buck up, suck up and come back........."

    In it there was a story about a campaign in trouble which they were asked to come in and help. They started by interviewing the campaign staff, asking why their candidate should win. Lots of people had all these technical answers. Some argued about how the phone should be answered or the color of the bumper stickers.

    Then one guy said "I'm only a volunteer, but I thought the point was that our candidate Smith is better than the opponent Jones".

    BINGO!

    Suppose, for a moment, that the US Senate campaign this year had been under Measure 65. Would Merkley and Smith be on the general election ballot, or would Novick be in there someplace?

    Or is that question too off the wall?

    If someone wants to come out for the status quo as working for them, or say "If you want to vote in our primary, register in our party" (and then explain why tax dollars of those not in parties should pay for primaries), that's fine.

    But I don't believe the textbook definition that people registering NAV are apathetic. I think they are fed up with partisanship.

    Does "progressive" mean a certain list of principles that most people here would agree with, or does it mean involving ordinary folks in problem solving (as I believe the Progressives of a century ago were interested in)?

    If the party matters more than why one candidate is better than another, is that a good thing?

    If 65 forces candidates to go to every house on the block instead of the 3 listed as registered with a party, I don't think that is a bad thing.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    George Seldes made the point that Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield and Wayne Morse were all elected in the same primary system we have now. George, if you think things haven't changed since the 60s and 70s, I'm suspecting you still have a rotary dial phone. Truth is, a young version of McCall or Hatfield could not get through a Republican primary today. And Morse was never much of a party man, having been elected to the Senate in each and serving for a couple of years as an independent. He did, however, hasten his own political demise by endorsing Hatfield in the 1966 Senate election over Democrat Bob Duncan.

    There is a great deal more polarization today, which leads to more bitter partisanship. And yet a lot of people are disturbed by this partisanship and polarization, which has turned them off to politics entirely--or at least until Barack Obama came along. His promise to transcend partisan warfare is a huge part of his appeal.

    My main point (about the domination of the legislature for 16 years by right wing extremists who represented a minority of Oregon voters) does not mean that I am seeking specific results, as George asserts. Right now, the playing field in primaries is tilted in favor of highly organized, highly ideological activists, who may not even comprise a majority in their own party. All I want to do is level the field.

    Yes, one reason we have lopsided election results is that the districts are gerrymandered. But how did they get that way? Pure partisan hacking by the dominant party in the legislature and the secretary of state. We're not going to redraw the lines to be more heterogeneous by electing more partisans. If anything, the secretary of state should be a non-partisan office.

    As for my conjecture that a Southeast Portland house district could conceivably elect a Pacific Green candidate, my point was that it could happen. What I'm hearing from M65 opponents is that all sorts of evil things will happen. But as K.C. finally admits, nobody knows for sure.

    Similar arguments were made by opponents of vote by mail when it was first proposed. It has worked out pretty well, though. Oregonians historically have been bold enough to implement practices that have never been tried anywhere else--citizen-sponsored initiatives, statewide land use planning, vote by mail. Measure 65 is worth trying out, too.

  • (Show?)

    Eric Parker, you said:

      Which is why it is ripe for a court challenge if passed.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has made a couple of rulings that relate to this sort of system. Measure 65 is in complete alignment with court decisions. Exactly what sort of challenge do you have in mind?

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I do not know what challenge there will be, but I have a gut feeling there is someone out there that will do it even if we feel it is up to snuff. It has happened before with measures that are "in complete alignment with court decisions" yet still get challenged. Remember the adoption records measure? We wasted a lot of money and unecessary court time after the election because of some 'anonymous' birth mothers. The measure was upheld, but it made me wonder if it was worth it given the cost and aggravation involved. It is a recent example of how someone, somewhere, will challege it, make it more expensive than it should be, and waste a perfectly good Yes vote.

    I would be very suprised if 65 passed and no one challenged it.

  • chris beck (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Steve Snyder,

    The top-two aspect is what is different from most open primaries where parties are guaranteed a general election spot. Under M 65, every voter can vote in the primary for any candidate, just as in Wisconsin. But in the general, just the top two will compete. It could be two D's or two R's or and R and an I/NAV, etc. It makes for truly competitive elections and, importantly, largely prevents the gamesmanship that other open primary set-ups encourage. Under the top-two, if you try to vote against your favorite candidate to ensure that he/she has a weak opponent, you may unwittingly end up ensuring that your candidate doesn't make it to the general, because, again, there is no GUARANTEE for any party to have a slot in the general. Fancy that.

    Sooo, the top two component enhances fairness one step further. During general elections when we have high turn-out, all voters will be reviewing two candidates who worked their fannies off to get through the primary by appealing to all voters. The winner in the general will have to get 50% to get into office, vs today, when too often, people are mostly elected in the primary with 30% and then an uncompetitive, perfunctory general election in the fall.

  • (Show?)

    Eric, if you don't have any specific idea of what the challenge would be, I think your concern is misplaced. Of course I, nor anyone else, can't guarantee that it won't be challenged; but a great deal of effort has gone into ensuring that it's legal and fair.

    In the event that there is a legitimate problem that nobody's yet thought of, it's well worth our time to figure it out; that's what courts exist for. But I'm not inclined to worry about something so vaguely hypothetical.

  • (Show?)

    KC,

    Sorry, just saw your response to me above.

    I live in a district similar to those you name, and my representative and friend, Ben Cannon, is a strong supporter of Measure 65. To hear him tell it, there is absolutely no incentive for him to ever talk to a Republican, non-affiliated voter, or minor party member in the district. Winning in the primary is enough to guarantee him victory. We are very fortunate to have a rep who is naturally inclined to seek out a diversity of views, but that is not something that should be discouraged in the way the system is set up.

    Furthermore, I remember the 5-person primary that elected him very clearly. I organized a panel discussion of candidates for the Bus Project. Ben was the only candidate who showed up; other candidates did not see the advantage of making a general appeal. I was new to local politics at the time, and thought they were just crazy; but when I later learned that the average age of a primary election voter is 60, it started to make sense; they were unlikely to reach anyone over 35 or so through the Bus Project.

    In that race, Ben's less cynical, less strategic, and more energetic approach won out. But in the future, I'd like to have a system where there is a winning strategy more closely tied to making an appeal to your entire district.

    And yes, I do recognize that Measure 65 is not a magic potion that will lower the average age of primary voters. My point is that strategic thinking will always be a factor in a competitive primary race; so it's important to include an incentive to communicate broadly with one's community.

  • (Show?)
    LT wrote: "If 65 forces candidates to go to every house on the block instead of the 3 listed as registered with a party, I don't think that is a bad thing."

    Yes, LT, that would be very nice if it happened. But, it won't. Under Measure 65, whichever candidates can afford the most advertising will win. Is it any wonder the Oregonian and Willamette Week are all for it? The media have been feasting on the campaign process since Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine.

    People wanting a serious analysis of why Measure 65 is a bad idea, instead of water-cooler chat, should read the City Club of Portland report on Measure 63 and 65 (pages 15 to 31).

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
    (Show?)

    chris beck wrote:

    M 65 will give us a better chance to enact meaningful campaign finance reform. The interest groups who oppose M 65 also oppose campaign finance innovations.

    Non sequitur, Chris. The groups that support M65 have also opposed campaign finance reform.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I read The Oregonian every morning and I have seen very little political advertising in it, unless Macy's is on the ballot somewhere. Same with Willy Weak. The ads are going to television and radio, while the editorial endorsements are coming from newspapers (virtually all of them in Oregon).

    The Fairness Doctrine never covered newspapers.

  • (Show?)

    Gil Johnson writes, of M 65's opponents: "I've been seeing a lot of rhetoric, but so far, no proof."

    Jeff Allworth writes: "maybe we should pass it just to see how it works."

    This is a sweeping change. There is a fundamental debate regarding whether there is a problem and if there is what the nature of it is. There is more debate as to whether this particular scheme addresses the "problem." These are not frivolous questions. There is real concern that this scheme would increase the chance that the choice of the voters would be thwarted. When we raise those concerns, our motives are questioned.

    I've been asking for evidence that this measure accomplishes what the proponents assert that it does. Haven't seen any yet.

    The measure itself makes unsupported assertions about its effects, uses novel language, and uses terms that more commonly mean something else.

    The proponents seem to believe that the burden of evidence should be on others to "prove" the case against the measure.

    And Jeff, the "just pass it and see if it works" argument was used in 1990 for Measure 5. That worked out well.

    The underlying discussion that should occur is about what standard of evidence we require in order to make sweeping changes in how things are done. Haven't we had enough faith-based governance by initiative?

    First, do no harm.

  • (Show?)
    Gil Johnson wrote: "I read The Oregonian every morning and I have seen very little political advertising in it ... Same with Willy Weak."

    Both the Oregonian and Willamette Week run paid political advertising, along with virtually every other media outlet including this website. And, according to the City Club of Portland's research, Measure 65 is likely to drive even more money into political advertising, and increase the political influence of those who can afford to pay for it.

    Every media outlet which accepts paid political advertising has a commercial interest in Measure 65 passing. And every wealthy political donor can look forward to increasing their influence due to their ability to purchase the additional advertising.

    Is it so hard to follow the money and see where Measure 65 will lead?

  • (Show?)

    Can anyone tell me EVER did the Oregonian run FOUR SEPARATE EDITORIALS on a single ballot measure?

    It's no wonder Phil Keisling publicly thanked Associate Editor Susan Nielsen at the City Club debate for her efforts in favor of M65.

    At least the Oregonian is honest about the reasons for its support. They argue that the measure is anti-union and anti-party.

  • (Show?)

    And Jeff, the "just pass it and see if it works" argument was used in 1990 for Measure 5. That worked out well.

    I knew someone was going to mention a horrible ballot measure and link it to this (possibly boneheaded) proposal. But before you kill me, keep in mind that I both blogged and voted against it. But I've kind of been won over to the other side! The perils of voting early....

  • Lennon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I've had lengthy conversations with a number of staunch advocates for and opponents of this measure, and eventually came to the conclusion that 65 is just too big a change to implement without a vigorous public debate about its possible implications.

    As a burgeoning policy wonk, I have difficulty imagining all the possible scenarios that could unfold under a M65 election system, but I do see a number of potential pitfalls. Furthermore, I think that (like all constitutional amendments) the burden is on the supporters to convince me beyond all doubt that their proposed change is both critical and beneficial to the state as a whole.

    Furthermore, I don't see M65 diluting the power of the existing two-party system noticeably. Even if elections were completely freed from partisanship (which I find unlikely in the extreme), the legislature is still structured as a two-party organism, and as such, even the most (little-"i") independent candidate will still have to play by their rules. M65 and other election reform could have a major impact on a generational scale (or longer), but that very fact means we should look very carefully before we leap.

  • (Show?)

    Lennon, I'm of course disappointed by your choice, but your diligence in exploring the issue is beyond reproach. Thank you for your insightful questions and observations along the way.

    By the way, not to criticize but simply because I know you care about such things, M65 is not a constitutional amendment -- there was actually an effort to pass this change to the primary through the legislature in the last session. (If I recall, the one significant difference was that the legislative version allowed a candidate to win outright in the primary.)

    Also, I'm glad that you and I seem to share many of the same concerns about the current system, and hope that we'll be able to work together in the future -- regardless of the outcome of this election -- to overcome them.

  • KC Hanson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Pete,

    Ben is a great guy and a wonderful legislator; I agree w/ him on just about everything - just not M65. I would suspect that most incumbents would enjoy the fruits of their experience as much under M65 as they do now. Would District 46 have seen 5 different Dem candidates contest for that seat 2 years ago in the Primary under a M65 system? I doubt it, but I'd have to check the registration numbers and guess how folks would speculate about the Primary vote breakdown. [:)]

    Gil, when venturing into new territories, one must consider the possible ramifications. I don't claim to be a seer, but it is quite reasonable to expect gamesmanship when everyone is running against everyone. In the land of Bill Sizemore, Mike Erickson and Kevin Mannix, (and with Loren Parks as a back up singer), it is also reasonable to expect money to play a large role. I've not changed my mind on this.

    What I have realized over the past several weeks is how proponents are unable to present how this will play out.

    But really, I think George Seldes said it best when he closed a post above with:

    "I think it was Maxine Waters who said 'You can't take the politics out of politics.' M65 is a wonk's dream of some pure political valhalla that is conducted without any of those nasty old "politicians." Good luck with that."

    Well said, George.

  • (Show?)

    KC, we're really getting into the nitty-gritty here, but my hopes for what M65 would do have as much to do with HOW candidates run and how they behave once in office, as it does with WHO runs or who wins.

    The money argument against 65 has never made sense to me. The only reason more money would be attracted, is that there would be more competitive races. More competitive races also invite more volunteers, more door knocking, and more substantive media coverage. Having more opportunities to influence our representation can't possibly be a bad thing simply on the basis that the deep pockets have to spread their money around more widely, can it? This one really just leaves me scratching my head.

    George's point may be a compelling against one of the weaker arguments advanced by proponents…but it fails to address the strongest arguments.

  • George Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The argument that M65 will make races more costly is inescapably true. First, it will greatly lengthen the duration of primary races, during which time multiple candidates will be in "arms race" campaigns to establish their viability in a second-round. This will be judged in large part by the ability to raise enough money to stand out from the pack and garner enough name recognition to finish first or second.

    THEN, after having the primary, M65 would pit the top two finishers in a zero-sum contest for a single prize. THAT is demonstrably the recipe for the most expensive general election races possible. And, by definition, the races will be much more negative (that's the nature of zero-sum contests), which will lead to even more spending by candidates and supporting groups.

    As for failing to address the "stronger arguments" for M65, I can't address what I can't identify. I have seen no arguments for M65 that merit the name arguments. What I have seen are simply conclusions drawn from thin air, such as the supposition that forcing all candidates into a snake-pit cajun primary will somehow favor "moderation" and the fantasy that this cajun primary will somehow eliminate spoilers.

  • ValkRaider (unverified)
    (Show?)
    I knew someone was going to mention a horrible ballot measure and link it to this (possibly boneheaded) proposal.
    <h2>Uhhm, I did that in the very first comment.</h2>
guest column

connect with blueoregon