Cody Hoesly

Elections and voting are in the news lately, with Iraqis voting on a constitution, and Estonians conducting the world's first nationwide Internet voting.  The talk in Oregon has been about ballot initatives, and we've got some talking to do about our election system, too.  The Bus Project's next panel discussion is even focused on the issue (Tuesday night at the Rogue Public House - tasty beer!).

In recent times, Oregonians and Americans have debated the best methods of conducting elections in the modern era.  Oregon adopted vote by mail in the late nineties and I remember in 2000 Nader and his folks were pushing instant runoff voting.  Three years ago, initiative petitoners were banned from paying people to collect signatures on a per-signature basis.  After the 2004 elections, the great issue was electronic voting:  its perils and promise.  Then this last session, the legislature passed a major election reform bill that mandates all sorts of new requirements for electronic reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures.   Now there's talk of more reform.

Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling is pushing an '06 measure that would eliminate partisan primaries, allowing everyone to run against each other in a May free-for-all, followed by a November election featuring only the top vote-getters.  The Portland Business Alliance is sponsoring an initiative to overturn Portland's new Voter-Owned Elections law.  Then there's the push for fusion voting, which gives third-parties more room in which to exist.  Who knows, Harry Lonsdale is, I believe, still trying to put caps back on campaign expenditures (which courts have ruled is unconstitutional).

What's interesting to me is how all of this is coming from many different angles:  changing technology, changing lifestyles, third parties, corruption, people wanting to decrease the value of money in politics, people fed up with partisan gridlock in the legislature, people fed up with ballot measure abuse, everything.  And this is the big issue that affects all other issues.

You can even look at it from another, partisan angle.  In California, you have recall-installed Governor Arnie pushing ballot measures as a way to attack Democrats.  One of his measures would create a nonpartisan commission to redraw legislative districts.  In Texas, Tom Delay redistricted Democrats right out of office directly.  Of course, then there was the issue of Bush's first election.  Those Texas Democrats eventually adopted the cry: Recount, Recall, Redistrict! to describe the GOP agenda for political dominance.

Anyway, this is definitely one of the questions of our time.  Voting is today more important than it has been since the Progressive Era, when we adopted direct primaries, direct election of senators, women's suffrage, the initiative system, etc.  Wonder how we'll fare when history judges us.

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    Whoops, that was my post.

  • J.W. (unverified)

    You should recheck your information regarding the demographic of Texas. As well as what really led to the Gov. recall in California.

  • OrygunPhil (unverified)

    "...corruption, people wanting to decrease the value of money in politics, people fed up with partisan gridlock in the legislature, people fed up with ballot measure abuse, everything."

    What does this mean? While everyone is open to their own opinion I get really tired of generalizations that lack fact.

    We all cry foul over things like Dan Doyle but we have to admit... the system proved that it works and the man will go to jail.

    Monied influence? Calling for "campaign finance reform" polls great and we all love to jump on the bandwagon. In the end the simple fact is that we are saying we are all crooks and that is why it needs to be fixed.

    I can not even fathom what ballot measure abuse means. Either people vote yes and it passes or they vote no and it does not. Unless we give Karen Minnis power over the initiative process where is the abuse?

    Maybe I just need more coffee this morning.

  • dmrusso (unverified)

    I can easily "fathom" ballot measure abuse! We live in a "Representative Democracy", not a pure "Democracy"... even the word "Democracy" can be argued if it even applies in our corporate-driven media world today.

    However, ballot measures are useful if I a populous is educated on what each measure means and how it will be weighed in the future and against other laws and the Constitution. Even the lawyers the write these ballots have not perfected that! (see M37) If you get your primary education on ballot measures from TV or Radio or Newspapers, then you usually only see one side of the story OR you see benefits and negatives that each side wants you to see. If you want to change the course of law in a state, this is hardly a responsible way to make an informed choice.

    Frankly, I get tired of seeing a dozen or more ballot initiatives each election. It seems like half of them are Constitutional Amendments. It is too easy to get ballot measures on the ballot. When they do get on the ballot, those of us that donate our time and money to campaigns have to choose where to divide our precious resources. How can the average citizen hope to stand up against all of the special interests that represent these ballot measures?

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    Election reform means lots of different things to different people (which is why election administrators generally don't use the term), and it always implies that there's something terribly wrong with our election system - when, in fact, vote by mail works rather well.

    Please, be clear when you're talking about these issues, as to whether you mean reform of campaign financing systems, ballot measures and direct democracy, ballot access, voting systems, or something else entirely.

    <h2>If you wish to ponder the real threat to democracy, check out Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's speech to the AFL-CIO. Here's a hint, it ain't partisanship or third parties.</h2>

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