The Oregon Republican Party has decided to partially open its May primary election to non-affiliated voters.
Specifically, they've voted to open the statewide primary races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State.
Of course, none of those races have competitive primary contests under way. In fact, with just a month left before the filing deadline, they don't have candidates at all for Attorney General and Treasurer.
The one big primary contest that will actually be contested? The presidential race. And they're not opening up that primary race. Of course, opening it up to non-affiliated voters risks giving a big assist to Ron Paul. And we can't have that, now can we?
(Oregon GOP spokesman Greg Leo says that national GOP rules prohibit open presidential primaries; but if that's true, nobody told New Hampshire, South Carolina, or the other 15 states with open presidential GOP primaries.)
So, what are the Republicans really doing?
Well, GOP chairman Allen Alley has certainly been on a crusade to remake the Oregon GOP into a more moderate party. And they say they're hoping that by allowing NAVs to participate in their not-much-of-a-primary, that those voters will somehow think good thoughts about Republicans in the fall. (Puh-leeze. Voters won't remember the details of what was on the ballot six months earlier.)
But I actually think there's something more cynical at work here. As the O's Jeff Mapes notes, they want the state to send a GOP primary ballot to every single NAV voter.
Unlike the Democratic experiment in past years, non-affiliated voters won't have to request a ballot. Instead, the more than 420,000 non-affiliated voters in the state will automatically receive a primary ballot that includes those statewide races.
I think they're screwing with Secretary of State Kate Brown - the only statewide officer currently facing a GOP opponent. Here's what she told Mapes about the GOP move:
Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, cheered the decision by the Republican Party to partially open its primary to non-affiliated voters. ...
However, Brown said it also isn't clear yet whether the state can simply include the three Republican statewide primaries in the ballot that is mailed to all non-affiliated voters or whether some other method will have to be used.
"It's going to take some time to work through this with our county clerks to see how we could actually institute this," she said.
In other words, the Oregon GOP has implemented a plan for their state-funded primary election that may not be achievable by the county clerks.
And so, if this doesn't happen, they'll make absurd claims like "Kate Brown wouldn't let independent voters vote in the Republican primary!!!1!! She hates democracy!!1!!!" Which is exactly the sort of nonsense that often comes out of Oregon Republican party functionaries when they've tippled a bit too much of the sherry.
After all, without actually having any contested primaries on the ballot, what's the point of all this?