Democratic Party action benefits Independent Party voters

By KC Hanson of Portland, Oregon. KC is the Chair of the Multnomah County Democratic Party and personally supports the concept of fusion voting.

From the homepage of the Independent Party of Oregon:

"The IPO may hold a primary election in July (2010), if it can raise sufficient funds to mail to its 54,000+ members and cover the other costs of an election. If the IPO does not conduct the primary election, its nominees will be chosen either by the 5-person IPO Caucus previously elected by the IPO membership."

The second passage above is the catalyst that's behind the Democratic Party of Oregon's (DPO) complaint to the Oregon SOS regarding the IPO's proposed nomination process. The IPO's second option: a 5 member board deciding nominations of the 54k member party should be particularly worrisome for grassroots members of the IPO.

Concern over nomination processes for minor parties has hit center stage with last year's passage of Senate Bill 326, which allows a candidate to list on the ballot up to 2 other nominating parties in addition to his or her originating party.

In the complaint (pdf), the DPO correctly cites ORS 248.009, which states:

"The nominating process (minor parties) for candidates for election at the general election shall provide an equal opportunity for all registered members of the party within the electoral district to participate in making nominations or selecting the delegates who make nominations."

While the IPO clearly infers that the 5 member nomination board is sufficient for the third largest Oregon Party, the DPO reasonably questions if this is adequate representation of IPO Party rank and file, and formalized it's request for the SOS to intervene.

In essence, while the Dems may be challenging the processes proposed by the leadership of the IPO, the DPO is actually taking action which would benefit rank and file IPO Party membership.

Ironically, if the IPO was allowed to nominate (co-nominate) candidates at the behest of only its leadership, it is highly possible that the leadership would make more liberal selections than would the rank and file members. The more conservative selections that could be made by a full membership vote hardly would be in the best interests of the Democratic Party, but definitely in the best interest of democratic process.

While the Multnomah County Democratic Party is not a participant in the DPO complaint, we are confident that the SOS will act in the best interest of all Oregon voters, especially those registered with the Independent Party.

Update: In today's Oregonian, Independent Party Secretary Sal Peralta announced that the IPO will be conducting a July "internet based" primary, while IPO Vice Chair Dan Meek revealed that he would have preferred a small group nomination process "that would force candidates to meet several "'litmus tests'".

Conducting a nomination process is no small feat, and the revelation that the small leadership group is not in sync makes their task more daunting. They're under a tight time constraint, and they endeavor to use an untested process which also happens to be very controversial among members of the Election Reform community. Clearly, there is much more to come on this story.

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    Thanks KC for posting this. Hopefully we can get you to show up at Thirster's tonight so I can pick your brain about this.

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    Good post, KC, thanks. I'm glad to hear that there will be SOME kind of Party-wide vote. I'll be curious to see how this plays out.

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    This is not correct, as the Independent Party of Oregon fully intended to do the internet vote in the first place. The baseless complaints filed by DPO against the Independent Party of Oregon only made doing the internet vote more difficult.

    For the truth, check out the postings at

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    Willamette Week's Nigel Jacquiss has an update to this story, which includes an audio recording:

    From the WWeek story:

    In that brief taped conversation between Peralta and Ben Unger, the political director for the state Senate Democrats, Peralta does appear to condition a candidate’s ability to compete for the IPO’s endorsement on the candidate making a contribution.

    Unger: Dan Rayfield [a Corvallis lawyer running in Senate District 8] says “Why do I have to pay?”

    Peralta: “He doesn’t have to.”

    Unger: “But then does he not get to participate?”

    Peralta: “That’s right.”

    There’s no indication that Peralta is seeking to line his own pockets. At one point, he notes, ”It’s not like I’m trying to get rich off this.” And he does explicitly tell Unger that the purpose of the money is to survey Independent Party members for their candidate input. “To send mail to 55,000 people is not cheap,” Peralta says on the tape.

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    The problem is that the underlying premise of the Independent Party is a sham. There is no unifying theory or interest holding it together -- it's just a gimmick that Meek, Williams, and Peralta exploited to get people on the ballot. Anybody who looks at it dispassionately knows the vast majority of Independent party "members" are really non-affiliated and just checked the box because it sounds a lot better than independent.

    The result is that there is no natural way to raise money to do the normal things that a party does (e.g. appealing to those who want to build the party to serve an ideological purpose). So Sal blurs (or crosses?) some ethical boundaries trying to raise money from people through a "transactional ask" (give me money in exchange for X) instead of ideological.

    It all smells horrible, but again it goes back to the fact that it's not really a political party in the way that the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, etc. are political parties.

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    I know Sal Paralto and do not believe he would cross an ethical line intentionally. However, a nascent party would have trouble with the legal infrastructure to know the location of the line. And, the SoS response was remarkably measured given the tactics taken to raise money for the online primary. The key learning here is we all need to know and obey the law.

    I’m going to thoroughly enjoy the attempt to engage 54000 people in an online vote. Those susceptible to conspiracy theory and those who are skeptical of computer aided voting should have a field day with the process. On the other hand, getting more than 41% of the party membership to participate in a primary might be a great leap forward. I wish them good luck.

    And, I will especially enjoy the campaigning and voting process for SD15 which will show the true colors of the IPO. The choice there is very clear and the outcome will show us if they are progressive, regressive, or apathetic.

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      That would be "Peralta". Sorry Sal.

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      I agree that Sal would not intentionally cross an ethical line. I do think, however, that there are some inherent problems with what the IPO is attempting to do, especially asking candidates to pay to be considered for an endorsement. That smacks of a quid pro quo whether the IPO means it that way or not.

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    Steve and Carla, thanks for your kind remarks.

    I have spent the last 3 years working mostly as a volunteer to try and cobble together a coalition of legislators who will commit to our members and to each other that they are willing to work together in service to the public interest.

    I don't care if they are liberal or conservative or any place in between. What matters most is their willingness to come to the table.

    Dan P. - If you want a unifying theme of the IPO, here it is: We want less partisanship, less special interest control over the legislative process, greater transparency in government, and more input from people who identify themselves as political Independents, regardless of whether they are members of the IPO.

    The election we are trying to hold is historic. We are essentially giving birth to a political party that over time could become a real force for good in this state.

    I am absolutely committed to seeing that happen.

    Like the toddler we are, our first few steps have been unsteady, but we will continue to engage our membership and build a coalition. We will learn from our mistakes and we will keep getting better.

    I have learned a great deal about who I am over the past few weeks. I am emerging from this experience a little sadder, a little more cautious, and hopefully a lot wiser. I have a much stronger sense my personal values and a much greater conviction that what I am doing is important enough to continue, even through the mistakes, and even in the face of great adversity.

    Not much that is worth doing in life comes without a cost.

    I do not know whether all of the 80+ people who are seeking our nomination are willing to commit to these things, but it is my hope that in some small way, the work I am doing on this will help to get Oregon unstuck, which is something that is sorely needed right now.

    note: Dan Meek is not the "vice president of the IPO". He is one member of the state council.

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      “We want less partisanship, less special interest control over the legislative process, greater transparency in government, and more input from people who identify themselves as political Independents, regardless of whether they are members of the IPO.”

      Sal, this is not a statement of core values. Defining yourself as half way between two ideological life views actually lets to the two end points define you. You have to take a stand on specific core values and be judged on your ability to navigate the political world without compromising these values. The center does not really exist except as a tactic.

      Where does your party stand on equality and discrimination based on race, religion, gender, age, disability, country of origin and sexual orientation? These are issues that divide us as a society and will push you off the center.

      And, were do you stand on applying new knowledge to attempt new and creative solutions to our old and intractable problems? Are you willing to take risks or do you favor the status quo? This will certainly push you off the center.

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    once someone joins the Independent Party, they are, of course, no longer independent: they are a partisan committed to the IPO. to imply they are free of the partisan taints of the Dems & Repubs because they register as Independents is just stupid. no one is independent, which is why the state lists those not joining any party as "non-aligned" and not independent.

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    Aye aye, TA.

    Is it just me, or does everyone get confused by IPO. After the 90s, I can't help but think it means "initial public offering."

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    join the IPO, get stock in the party that'll make you rich in no time! yea, i couldn't avoid that either, Jeff.

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    Steve brings up an essential point. Core philosophies and issues are why most folks choose to become members of particular parties. Activists may chose to work as issue advocates (think OLVC, BRO), or may center their activism within an existing Party structure.

    For years I was an activist strictly focusing on GLBT issues (and fighting back against the efforts of Lon Mabon and the OCA). While always a registered a Democrat, in the early 2000s as my political activism re-ignited and broadened, I made a conscious decision to remain a Democrat, expand my activism, and work within the structure of the Democratic Party, as well as independently, in my new-found passion of election reform.

    While I didn't see the Party as perfect by any means, I saw significant opportunity for progressives to become involved and move the Party forward. The issues prioritized in the Democratic Party Platform were and are issues that I care about, including the evermore inclusive philosophies and goals regarding GLBT rights, and a broadening consciousness about election reform issues.

    While I now serve as a Dem Party officer, and I encourage folks - esp. those of a progressive mindset - to become active Dems, I have great respect for those of similar philosophies who are members of other Parties or NAVs, and who are actively working on the issues most dear to them.

    Ultimately, progressives will work together to bring about the necessary changes that benefit our communities, and in fact, we act in coalition on Election Day to elect those individuals most committed to do just that job.

    Which brings me back to Steve's observations. It is indeed difficult to ascertain the philosophies of the Indy Party. Their Bylaws advocate voter participation, election reform and govermental transparency, but there is actually no Party Platform, just a 4 question "platform poll" that appears on their website.

    The Indys have essentially developed as the party of "We're not THEM," but where Indy voters align themselves in relation to "them" may well be a smorgasbord of philosophy.*


    *In a follow up post I will refer to some limited research that substantiates this point and the premise of my original post.

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    In comparing the "progressive vs. conservative" scores for Indy voters in 2 distinct areas of Multnomah County, I have discovered an interesting contrast. In the Southwestern most area of Multnomah County, the 18,000+ voter portion of Congressional District 5 (Con. Kurt Schrader's), survey results indicate that progressive Indys outnumber conservative Indys by a a ratio of 3 to 1.

    In sharp contrast, the ratio is flipped in Oregon Senate District 24, (Sen. Rod Munroe's), Multnomah's mid-county area. In survey results from this area, conservative Independents outnumber progressives by the same ratio.

    While this is not a scientific survey, but results gleened from campaign efforts, it does provide an interesting tell of inconsistency from one area to another. It seems to underline the fact that the only constant among Indys is that they are not of the aforementioned "them".

    Very interestingly, there was was much more consistency among non-affiliated voters between the 2 regions. In CD 5 progressive NAVs outnumbered conservatives by a ratio of 5 to 1; in SD 24, the progressives still held serve, outnumbering conservative NAVs by a ratio of better than 3 to 1.

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    Regardless of the ethics or legality of what Sal was recorded discussing (and I was disappointed you didn't address it at all in your comment here, Sal), the thesis of the author of this article appears to be that DPO filed a complaint in order to help the IPO form a tighter bond with its members.

    Yeah, right. It reminds me of All the President's Men the movie, when W&B are trying to get to talk to Hugh Sloan, the (apparently honest) treasurer of CREEP. Bernstein tells his wife, "We're doing this for his benefit!" His wife--played by a young and beautiful Meredith Baxter--looks at them with maximum jaundice and says, "No it's not." (To his credit, Woodward agrees: "No, it's not.")

    DPO is trying to piss on BlueO's collective leg and blame it on the June Monsoon, here. Again, I'm still trying to figure out whether IPO is pulling serious shenanigans ...but it's really kind of sad to opine that DPO is legitimately concerned for the well being of "Independent" voters.

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      Asking candidates to pay to be considered for an endorsement is shenanigans. Especially if Brent Barton (see the WW story) is accurate when he claims that the price went up for his participation once he drew an opponent.

      Further, the IPO has often endorsed Democratic candidates. I would think their endorsement helps those candidates..which by extension helps the Dems. Filing a complaint at this juncture would appear to me to be of little help to the Democrats.

      If the endorsement decisions for the IPO are only being made by the three to five folks who are self-appointed representatives, then that's certainly an appearance of shenanigans as well.

      (The way I understand it, Meek, Peralta etc. have not been elected by the IPO to their positions. They appointed themselves to a five-year term. I'm sure they'll correct me if that's bad information).

      Are these folks INTENTIONALLY doing things that are bad? I don't think so--I think that their hearts are in the right place, in general. But IF the complaints and news stories are correct, then it would seem like "shenanigans" is an appropriate label.

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    Mark, as I had stated, MultCo Dems are not a party to the complaint, so essentially, any "piss" emitted is not my own.

    To clarify, county party orgs. are separate and distinct from DPO. While County and state membership obviously logistly crossover, daily operations are not at all joined at the hip. I have not consulted with or been a partner on the pursuit of the DPO inquiry.

    I did and do feel it's important to point out the political realities - that indeed, the rank and file IPO membership may have political perspectives quite different from leadership.

    And yes, I do feel it fair to highlight that the concerns of the DPO are legitimate. The catalyst for the complaint - that IPO could possibly be on the cusp of an unrepresentative nomination process - is of real concern to the DPO because it does dramatically affect Democratic candidates statewide. That it does affect grassroots IPO members is my own observation.

    Quite honestly. it's too bad that a member or group of member of IPO didn't address this concern initially INSTEAD of the DPO, but that no one w/ IIPO ties did is perhaps also quite telling.

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    So, apparently the democrats in Oregon are doinf this for the indies "own good". How paternalistic and condescending.

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      I think "ironic" is a more appropriate observation. Having 5 people determine content on the Oregon ballot ought to be of concern to everyone. I know I would be in opposition to my party using a 5-person committee to award endorsements.

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    The central concern is NOMINATION process that could actually put text ON the ballot. The DPO is concerned about a process that may or may not put the term "INDEPENDENT" right next to a candidate's name. Again, it is MY OWN personal observation that the DPO actions are of benefit to IPO grassroots.

    This is much more than "endorsements"; endorsements don't appear on the ballot itself. This is something entirely new impacting EVERY Oregon voter who even glances at his/her ballot. The DPO is doing its job to assure Democratic candidates are not harmed by a haphazard mechanism which determines critically important ballot content.

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      Today we find in a separate article found in the Oregonian that Kitzhaber, that retread gubanorital candidate will be tring to get himself nominated to the independent slate. AHA! The real reason for DPO interest emerges...... They want to subvert the process in order to get their candidate further imeshed into the process.

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        I'm sure you find your tin foil hat really attractive and all, but if you're gonna wear it in public, expect people to point and laugh.

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    "I'm not one of them" is pretty non-descript and meaningless political identity as a philosophy. I don't give this nonsense much of a future, anymore than other efforts to make political hay out of NAs with meaningless platitudes in place of agenda. Just as soon as something with actual meaning is put forth the disparate interests will explode in controversy.

    Maybe Sal ought to make as big a deal out of his 2nd Amendment views with his new home as he did with the Democrats, that should win him a bunch of friends.

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