In closing hours, Lege passes minor-party election reform

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Minor political parties and nonaffiliated voters won an unexpected victory in the closing hours of the legislative session.

SB 326 repeals the rule that forbids voters from voting in a partisan primary and signing a petition to qualify a nonaffiliated candidate for the ballot. It also allows candidates who are cross-nominated by multiple parties to be listed on the ballot with up to three names of political parties.

Update: Here's how that might look visually on the ballot.

Lightfusion

As Randy Stapilus notes, "from a minor-party point of view, it’s a big deal." According to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News, Oregon is the second state (along with Connecticut) to have recently expanded fusion voting.

Read the text of SB 326 here. See the final vote tally here.

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Wow, what a surprise! Getting fusion-lite passed is HUGE, because it opens the door to real fusion, which would change election dynamics for the good in Oregon. Plus the Indy-penalty repeal? Sal peralta must be dancing a jig of epic proportions right now.

    And John Kroger got most of what he wanted for enviro and civil rights prosecutions, too. The tiger is unleashed! Massive victory for his office.

    Great finish after some late disappointments.

  • (Show?)

    Thank goodness. Now we can finally start electing leaders and not just the candidates with trending parties.

    This is a long-overdue hat tip to the Oregon way. How many Democrats repeatedly voted Hatfield and McCall? How many Republicans kept voting Morse?

    And it goes all the way back to Julius Meier's dissatisfaction with the ORP chair's self-nomination, which led to the first independent governor of Oregon. Thank you, legislators, for providing us this sound election reform.

  • Jim H (unverified)
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    TJ, What's the difference between fusion-lite (as you describe the bill) and real fusion? I thought fusion voting was simply allowing candidates to appear on the ballot for multiple parties.

  • Cafe Today (unverified)
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    SB 326 repeals the rule that forbids voters from voting in a partisan primary and signing a petition to qualify a nonaffiliated candidate for the ballot.

    This is the biggest part of that bill, and it's great that the legislature finally reversed itself from a few years back when they put this terrible idea into statute.

  • (Show?)

    Jim H --

    I just updated the post with a graphic that shows how this new fusion-lite ballot might look.

    In full fusion, as we used to have in Oregon, each party nomination would be on its own line.

    It would say, for example:

    • Polly Progressive, Democrat
    • Polly Progressive, Working Families
    • Randy Rightie, Republican
    • Randy Rightie, Constitution
    • Randy Rightie, Libertarian
    • Eddy Enviro, Pacific Green

    And voters would choose which ballot line to vote on. The vote totals for each ballot line would be reported. For example:

    • Polly Progressive, Democrat - 42,000
    • Polly Progressive, Working Families - 8,000
    • Randy Rightie, Republican - 45,000
    • Randy Rightie, Constitution - 1,000
    • Randy Rightie, Libertarian - 2,000
    • Eddy Enviro, Pacific Green - 10,000

    And then, in order to determine a winner, the votes per candidate would be tallied:

    • Polly Progressive - 50,000
    • Randy Rightie - 48,000
    • Eddy Enviro - 10,000

    The spoiler effect is minimized (though not eliminated), since minor parties could nominate candidates in coalition - and still get their votes counted individually. And best of all, voters are able to provide more information - (e.g. "I voted for Polly Progressive because she supports the Working Families Party agenda.")

    Fusion-lite is a good first step, and should demonstrate that there's nothing to fear from re-legalizing full fusion voting in Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    "TJ, What's the difference between fusion-lite (as you describe the bill) and real fusion? I thought fusion voting was simply allowing candidates to appear on the ballot for multiple parties."

    What was passed allows candidates to put multiple endorsements on their ballot line. This is good, and shows the various parties who endorse--but it doesn't harness the real power of fusion voting, because it can't quantify that support. In other words, if Jeff Merkley gets the Working Families endorsement and he wins, he can generally thank WFP--but he has no way of knowing how strong that support was.

    With full fusion, each party can nominate a candidate on their OWN line. So Merkley would show up on the Dem line AND the WFP line, and all votes are totaled at the end. So Merkley might have 52% of the vote...but if he knows that 10% (for instance) of it came from WFP, that is a quantifiable assessment of their support, and thus the level of his accountability to them. It allows parties to leverage their constituency without necessarily spoiling.

  • (Show?)

    For all of you celebrating the passage of fusion voting, just wait until a candidate in a close race starts being attacked for his or her endorsement by a fringe political party.

    "Did you know that my opponent is the Libertarian Party candidate, which favors legalization of all drugs?"

    "And my opponent is the candidate of the Pacific Green Party, which supports removing the dams from the Columbia River."

  • Connor Allen (unverified)
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    That's a curious response, Jack, since there's always the potential for things in D or R party platforms being dragged out and attached to a candidate, but I don't recall seeing it often. I think it's generally accepted that a candidate doesn't necessarily agree with everything, or anything, in their party's platform.

  • Chris Andersen (unverified)
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    This is a pleasant surprise. I didn't even know it was on the schedule.

    Re: Jack Roberts concern about toxic 3rd party nominations. As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent a 3rd party under the old system from doing exactly what you talk about. The only difference now is that that nomination can be listed on the ballot. But that shouldn't impact the candidates as long as they have the choice of which party nominations appear on the ballot.

    Does anyone with knowledge of the specifics of this change know if the candidates have the final say in what party lines appear under their name? I would certainly hope so.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Chris, as I recall a candidate can refuse to have any party name other than the one they were nominated by next to their name.

    Cafe Today has it right, though, on the most important part of the bill. I sat with a friend in the gallery to watch the vote. It was great to see how quickly it passed.

  • John Silvertooth (unverified)
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    I guess I should read the bill-

    Is a candidate required to list all of the parties nominating them?

    If they file in the GOP Primary and win and then are nominated by other parties can they then choose not to be listed as Republican but instead say Libertarian and Constututional?

    Are they required to list a second or third nomination or can they bump it- Say the Pigs'r'Us party co-nominates a candidate would they be required to list Republican, Pigs'r'us?

    Sounds fun.

    If the minor parties were interested in really being involved they should look for an old proportional representation system.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Ralph Nader lives!

    (not only does he live, but he's also spot-on right about just about everything)

  • Matt (unverified)
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    Chris, as I recall a candidate can refuse to have any party name other than the one they were nominated by next to their name. .

    The bill could be written more clearly, so maybe one of the actual election lawyers on here can set me straight, but I think this is not correct.

    It looks to me like you cannot choose to decline other party IDs, except when you're nominated by more than 3 parties.

    The section we would mostly frequently deal with is:

    (F) For a candidate who is nominated by a political party of which the candidate is a member and by any political party or parties of which the candidate is not a member, the name of the political party of which the candidate is a member and the names of not more than two other political parties selected by the candidate shall be added opposite the name of the candidate.

    One might read this as allowing the candidate to select zero other parties, but I think this is wrong. This is because under other circumstances you would have no right to decline to list the party nominating you, and it would seem odd to differentiate here. For example if you are an unaffiliated candidate running for office (an independent who went out and got a bunch of signatures to get on the ballot) and then a minor party chose to nominate you, it doesn't look to me like you could decline to have their ID listed by your name.

    (A) For a candidate not affiliated with a political party who is nominated by a minor political party, the name of the minor political party shall be added opposite the name of the candidate;

    And that bit is not new law. That's the current law. Likewise, under current law (the bill changed this a bit though) if you were an independent and you were nominated by two minor parties, you apparently were required to select exactly one of them to list by your name. Selecting zero didn't seem to be an option.

    So, given that this is the current state of law and given that the legislature didn't clearly change it, it seems reasonable to conclude that they do not intend for candidates to be able to decline to have other party's IDs next to their name, except as necessary when endorsed by too many parties.

    To interpret the law otherwise would essentially give candidates who belong to political parties a right (to decline the endorsement of other parties) which is apparently not shared by independents. Which would almost certainly be unconstitutional.

    Of course this might be one of those "technical problems" cited by the 5 Dems who voted against the bill. In any case, if the intention was to be able to decline endorsements, (which I suspect that a lot of the supporters probably did intend, at least if they stopped and thought about it) the drafters could have been a whole lot more clear. Easy fix in February, that that's the route people want to go.

  • (Show?)

    "the names of not more than two other political parties selected by the candidate"

    the key is the phrase "selected by the candidate," which pretty clearly suggests that they have the final say. Thus the candidate must in fact carry their party-affiliated label, AND may choose to add zero, one ore two more parties that have endorsed her.

  • (Show?)

    That's a curious response, Jack, since there's always the potential for things in D or R party platforms being dragged out and attached to a candidate, but I don't recall seeing it often.

    Yeah, I don't actually recall any Republicans getting attacked in their campaigns for the bizarre nonsense in their Oregon GOP's platform.

    Remember this little nugget?

    7.5 [We propose] Inter-jurisdictional agency cooperation shall be improved for more effective joint action against organized crime, drug cartels, terrorist networks and the Oregon Democratic Party.

    Not to mention the bizarre obsession with sex in the OR GOP platform - literally dozens of references.

  • Jim H (unverified)
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    Kari & TJ, Thanks for the clarification between fusion-lite and real fusion.

    Sheesh! why does everything have to be done in baby steps?

  • (Show?)

    "Sheesh! why does everything have to be done in baby steps?"

    In this case, it was the Elections Director and the County clerks, who claimed the expense and reeducation caused by shuffling the format of elections would cost a bunch of money and effort.

  • (Show?)

    This is a change I am glad to see.

    I am assuming the "fusion lite" part is for partisan races, correct?

  • (Show?)

    Before anyone gets too excited about this, there are two reasons that this bill may not go into effect:

    First, I have heard that the Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO) is urging the Governor to veto this bill. The only known organizational opponents to the fusion lite part of the bill were the OEA and the DPO.

    Second, Senator Devlin vowed on the floor of the Senate to amend the "fusion lite" part of SB 326 in the 2010 Session, before its provisions will have had a chance to be used. He said (my rough transcript): "My intention is to come back in February and address the problems with fusion lite." He did not specify what those problems are. He mentioned the county clerks, but the Association of County Clerks testified that they could handle "fusion lite" with existing software. Knowing that his party opposed this bill, Senator Devlin's changes in February may be significant.

    To answer some questions from above: Under SB 326, each candidate gets to decide which nominations of her appear on the ballot. And under existing law, not changed by SB 326, each candidate gets to decide whether to accept the nomination of any party in the first place. So Matt's analysis above is not correct, and there is no chance of a candidate being unwillingly nominated by any party or having that nomination appear on the ballot.

    A candidate nominated by both a major party and a minor party can choose to have or not have the minor party label on the ballot but must have the major party label on the ballot (because the candidate must be a member of the major party in order to receive its nomination in the first place; that is what subsection (F) is about).

    As for an unaffiliated candidate who qualifies by petition and then is also nominated one minor party, the ballot will show the name of that minor party. If that same candidate is nominated by more than one minor party, the candidate can choose which of them to display ballot, up to 3. She could also decide to display none of them. Remember, a minor party cannot nominate anyone for office, without that candidate's express approval (and signature on documents submitted to the Secretary of State or county elections office).

    Yes, Jenni, the "fusion lite" part is only for partisan races.

  • Gary (unverified)
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    Fusion is a bunch of BS . . . a meaningless waste of time.

    The only true reform is PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. A party gets 15% of the vote and gets 15% of the legislators. Below is a sample link to the state legislature of the German state of Bavaria. They along with most democracies in the world use proportional representation.

    Click on link or paste:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Bavaria

  • David Lee Donnell (unverified)
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    Gary, don't let the masthead fool you. Progressive has nothing to do with the Democratic Party and it certainly ain't home here, at the official, unofficial blog of the Oregon Democratic Party. There have been 3,123 posts on Blue Oregon. In 657 of them, someone has mentioned that such-and-such, "is an artifact, only a problem because our creaking, ancient republic is the ONLY one that hasn't realized that proportional representation is a must", and it has never once been seriously addressed. One, "yeah, right...", and let's get back to seeing if the Dems or Reps win the next round... A few insulting remarks about Ayn Rand...that's progressive banter in the US. You foget one minor difference in comparing us and Bavarians. THEY ARE FUCKING 10 TIMES SMARTER!!!

    Move libertarian to under the write-in line. Proves you don't understand them.

    Not ONLY do we refuse to admit our creaking old non-parliamentary democracy, we've got to further increase the tyranny of the majority by lumping parties together! Anyone that spends time on American politics is either to dumb to see that it can't work, or is interested in exploiting how it doesn't work.

    Think of it like peripheral senses communicating with the brain. Pooling the signal results in a less refined, though stronger, message. Evolution is about specialization AWAY from that. The future is a bot that votes every person's heart, a true democracy, not promoting oligarchy even among anarchists!

    This is just what progressives expected from the Dems. More attention on killing real progressivism that reversing the abuses of the right. Let's have it, proud Dems! A post on the things you have fixed, since being elected 8 months ago.

  • (Show?)

    David Lee Donnell writes:

    "Anyone that spends time on American politics is either to dumb to see that it can't work, or is interested in exploiting how it doesn't work."

    Actually there is a third option and a fourth. Third is feeling one has a duty & responsibility to try, without much expectation of success -- at best, "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will," more often perhaps call them Camus Democrats (or Libertarians or Greens or Socialists/socialists, n.b. too that your strictures about prospects of success apply too to would-be revolutionary politics of various stripes).

    Fourth is related but more pessimistic -- playing defense. Abandoning the system to the venal and their big-money corrupters may "waste" less of one's energy but the outcome is even worse politically. In recent times power has been arrayed against the Constitution, but not the parts of which you complain -- rather those trying to limit dictatorial / imperial presidential power and to defend civil liberties and rights.

    Are you a defeatist, in the proper sense of the term, i.e. defeat would be good for us, we should let the right destroy the better parts of the Constitution so then it will all be bad & we can try to overturn the whole mess & start over?

    Proportional representation doesn't prevent oligarchy. A parliamentary system gave Hitler the chancellorship on a minority vote (substantially based in Bavaria btw) & he exploited his opportunity. In South Africa they have pure party-line p.r. Each party makes a list ranking its candidates in order of preference, and seats are distributed according to proportion of vote by going down the list to whatever the cut-off is for each party. No MP has any responsibility to any particular constituency at all. It's all about inner-party power, patronage, log-rolling etc. Step out of line with dominant party policy, you get taken off the list next time or downgraded. N.B. "policy" in this case may have nothing to do with ideology or platform but rather the political priorities of the dominant leaders.

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