Senator Avel Gordly renounces party politics

State Senator Avel Gordly recently renounced her membership in the Democratic Party, becoming an independent. Tucked into a story about voter participation rates, the Portland Tribune has the story:

For Gordly, the numbers paint a disturbing picture. In 1950, fewer than 2 percent of Oregon’s registered voters did not affiliate with either party, or about 12,000 people. But by 2006, that portion was up to 25 percent – about a half a million people. That is a half a million Oregonians who did not identify with the two major political parties and the ones who control the direction of the state, Gordly says.

“They don’t feel an affinity to the political parties,” she says of the Independents. This is a problem, since “government is where decisions are made every day that affect the quality of everyone’s lives,” she says.

If the number reflects a statistical measure of disaffection, then Gordly now officially shares it. Why? Because Gordly says partisan battling between the two parties is preventing the state Legislature from tackling problems in Salem.

School funding is one example, with Oregonians treated to a new round of headlines about potential budget cuts every year, Gordly says.

During the 2005 session, two prominent politicians, state House Speaker Karen Minnis, a Republican, and Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, floated proposals to make funding more stable – proposals that were surprisingly similar. However, Gordly notes, each proposal promptly sank – in part due to partisanship.

“The minute these proposals came out, people began to attack them based on who made the proposals,” she says, “as opposed to looking at them on their merits.”

As a result, Gordly supports the idea of making elections for the entire Legislature nonpartisan, just as local races are. That way, she says, lawmakers would be better able to vote their conscience and tackle problems, without worrying about what their political party tells them to do.

Given the power and money of the major parties, Gordly’s decision to go Independent could mean an end to her career as an elected official. But she seems OK with that, saying simply: “What we have now doesn’t work.”


  • (Show?)

    Gordly is my Senator, and I'm very excited to hear this. Most intrigued by the 2nd-to-last paragraph quoted, the idea of making all Legislative races non-partisan. Are there any states that have non-partisan legislatures? Would this really, as Gordly claims, make the legislature more responsive to the state's actual needs?

    By the way, that whole article was interesting, tying together the Building Votes program, the One Ballot initiative, Senator Atkinson, and others. I recommend it.

  • (Show?)

    I've written before and I'll write again: removing the party label from a candidate's name does not remove ideological and policy differences between candidates, or the ideological affiniaty that exists among some groups of candidates.

    Removing party labels makes it harder for voters to distinguish among candidates and makes it harder for citizens to assign reward and blame.

    Removing party labels does not remove the need to organize the legislature into committees, elect a Speaker, and otherwise manage the agenda.

    Finally, removing labels doesn't remove groups from politics, they only change their names from "Democrat" and "Republican" to other names.

    A good idea: ballot and election reforms that lower the barrier for new parties to enter our system.

    A bad idea: go non-partisan on the anti-historical but oh so American notion that parties are the root of all evil in politics.

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    And in answer to my own question...Nebraska's is the only non-partisan legislature in the nation. (They use a system similar to One Ballot to select candidates in the primary.)

  • LT (unverified)

    removing the party label from a candidate's name does not remove ideological and policy differences between candidates

    Paul, if you can find a system where all budget decisions are made in the open, where members are not told by caucus leadership that the caucus is more important than constituents, where caucus meetings meet the Article IV Section 14 Oregon Constitution requirement "deliberations to be open", where solving problems and communicating with the public is more important than what information each caucus decides we the public are entitled to know and who the caucus decides are "electable" candidates and who are not (as opposed to the Howard Dean idea "show up everywhere, contest everything"), then you would have a point.

    I am working on a campaign for state rep. where the incumbent is supposedly "entrenched" although in a district with about 8000 registered outside major parties the incumbent won last time against a weak candidate (didn't campaign outside her home community) by 6000 votes.

    I live in a district where the first Democrat ever elected (decades ago) wasn't given a chance at all by "leadership" but won thru sheer hard work (esp. door to door) and community connections.

    The current system isn't working. I have not spoken to my state rep. since the session ended. She may have more money than the challenger but never shows up for community events. But that's OK because Wayne Scott has a majority website (saw it awhile back--don't know the URL) with district numbers, candidate names, and candidate PAC ID numbers?

    If all legislative leaders were as open as Senators Courtney and Ferrioli, there might be an argument for keeping party caucuses.

    But as a friend of mine who was a Sen. staffer last session said, "These people (legislators) are so caught up in their own little games that if there was rioting in the streets---or if everyone just packed up and left--the legislature is so inward looking, they wouldn't even notice!".

    As I understand it, the deciding factor for Sen. Gordly was Democrats closing their caucuses after having had an open caucus.

    I say closed caucuses are ripe for revolt--either citizens saying they are being subjected to public employees (what legislators are) operating in private, or a lawsuit by someone on the grounds of Article IV section 14.

    Status quo ain't working---why there is a Public Commission on the Legislature, which has had more public discussions (available on the Legislative website and also for a fee recorded (VHS & DVD?) than the legislature has had in recent years.

    I believe in the public's business being done in public, and that hasn't happened in recent years.

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    Does anybody know if Gordly is giving up any committee seats with this move?

    Paul: I disagree. The current primary system heavily favors candidates at the extremes in both parties. This is because many voters are unable to participate in a meaningful way in the selection of their legislators (closed primaries in heavily D or R districts.)

    You're right that removing party labels does not change people's ideology. But it would remove impediments to more moderate candidates, and provide an incentive for bridge-builders to build broad support at home.

    LT: hear hear.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)

    Welcome home Avel, welcome home. Here’s one registered independent who is encouraged to see such a bold move from an Oregon politician. Let’s hope the dinosaurs in both parties sit up and take notice at what you’re doing and the future political success you will hopefully have.

    “Removing party labels makes it harder for voters to distinguish among candidates and makes it harder for citizens to assign reward and blame.”

    Spoken like a true party hack. What the elimination of party labels does is force voters to study the positions of those running for office and vote accordingly instead of mindlessly voting for whoever has a D or R next to their name. It also frees men and women of conscience from retribution should they advance agendas not favored by party power-brokers.

    The Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same tarnished coin who share one overriding goal, maintaining political power. This trumps any interest in serving the country or the citizens. Upstart third party candidates like Ralph Nader in ‘04 are swiftly dealt with so as not to upset the status quo and the attendant benefits for career politicians.

    Look at the Democrats in Washington today, quite happy to be a doormat for the current administration so long as they have access to the many perks that go along with membership in the House or Senate.

    Bravo Avel, here’s to you doing something that just might actually help improve this country’s political system.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    Avel Gordly: The minute these proposals came out, people began to attack them based on who made the proposals, as opposed to looking at them on their merits.

    We need more legislators with that attitude. I recall in 1998 or so when there was a jitney bill in the hopper down in Salem, and Gordly broke with most Democrats and said this was "a good bill". This would have broken the taxi cab cartel in any Oregon municipality (particularly Porltand) and allowed individuals to be owner-operators (even co-op cab companies) and to operate in territories of their own choosing rather than be forced, for example, to cover the entire city area (one could have had the St. Johns-Kenton Taxi Service). The usual special interests popped up to kill this, like Tri-Met, the Portland City Council, Port of Portland, League of Oregon Cities, a Portland Taxi Licensing bureaucrat, and even a co-owner of Smart Cab, a company started by Ethiopian immigrants when they challenged the City of Portland to allow entry into the market (they were allowed to join the cartel -- I wrote to each council member supporting reform to allow this), and who now want to keep others out!

    The bill passed the Senate (amazingly, since it was quite a radical bring-back-free-enterprise bill) but was held up in the House of Rep's committee (by Rep Montgomery, a Tri-Met flack). I was one of thirteen people who showed up to testify in favor of this when they did hold a hearing on the last day for any hearings in the session, and noted that all of us had nothing to gain financially from this bill save to see excess regulations removed. But all of the opponents had something to gain or maintain by killing it. Anyway, that Gordly looked at the merits and resisted arm twisting by the usual big city powers like Tri-Met and the city government told me a lot about her open mindedness.

    Bob Tiernan

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    I think Gordly is my State Senator and I am not happy about this. I look north to Washington State and see that a lot of good is coming out of an all Dem legislature/governor combo. I'd love to have a couple years of that in Oregon. This doesn't lead us in that direction. And, if we can't have that, then, I'm up for trying something different, but a lone Senator going independent like this just means we have a Senate with one less Dem.

    I'm curious how the Minnis race is shaping up if anyone wants to post a blog on that, I'd love to read it.

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    LT wrote... if you can find a system where all budget decisions are made in the open, where members are not told by caucus leadership that the caucus is more important than constituents, where caucus meetings meet the Article IV Section 14 Oregon Constitution requirement "deliberations to be open", ...

    But what makes you think that a nonpartisan legislature would solve any of these problems? In a matter of hours (ok, maybe minutes) we'd have a 'progressive caucus' and a 'conservative caucus'. Probably also an 'environmental caucus', and a 'pro-choice caucus', and a 'gun caucus' and, and, and, and...

    There's nothing inherently magical about the words "Democrat", "Republican", or "political party" that would cause their removal to eliminate the human need for collaboration with allies, plotting against rivals, privacy prior to publicity, etc.

    You may not like the fact that some deliberations are made over cocktails or during prayer meetings, but that's human nature. Don't like it? Run for office. Do it your way.

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    I'm not convinced changing the legislature to a non-partisan election would do anything other than propagate confusion. If you cannot refer to your party affiliation or your opponent's affiliation, then it seems to me that legislative races would operate more like judicial elections, where the candidates fall somewhere on the spectrum of liberal to conservative and the voter has to end up divining the candidate's positions and overall philosophy by reference to the candidate's materials, endorsements, etc. To me, this seems to invite more campaigns where individuals market themselves disingenuously in an attempt to get elected in a district that would otherwise not be favorable to them politically.

    Are there any non-Gordon-Smith-endorsing Democrats running for the Democratic party's nomination in her Senate District in 2008?


  • DifferentSalemStaffer (unverified)

    Paul -- ever staffed in Salem during session? The reason it would change things is this: Not everyone in the Republican caucus agrees with Minnis... not even most of the time.

    Here's how it works in the House (and Senate, but this example is unicameral)... the R's get 40 seats. They caucus. 21 members decide that their speaker will be Representative Minnis. 19 members absolutely loathe Minnis, but they have to go along with it.

    Because of a system of partisan "procedural votes," the Speaker and her 20 backers trump the desires of the 20 D's + 19 opposed R's that didn't want a Speaker Minnis.

  • Stacey Dycus (unverified)

    But what makes you think that a nonpartisan legislature would solve any of these problems? In a matter of hours (ok, maybe minutes) we'd have a 'progressive caucus' and a 'conservative caucus'. Probably also an 'environmental caucus', and a 'pro-choice caucus', and a 'gun caucus' and, and, and, and...

    Which means we could put the emphasis back on issues and less on an artificial label like party which doesn't really tell you means someone could be a part of the gay caucus AND the gun caucus and work on both of those issues simultaneously- now they have to choose.

    In Nebraska, they caucus by congressional district and most importantly, they choose leadership by secret ballot. That way the most qualified person who inspires others gets picked, not the one who can scare their caucus the most. Karen Minnis wouldn't be picked if the house could vote by secret ballot.

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    A non-partisan legislature won't change anything. The D's will still flock together and so will the R's.

    Even in non-partisan races the party still makes endorsements, still works to get candidates elected, and still gives money. So a candidate who is a registered R is still going to want full support from the Republican Party to get elected. After all, that Party is going to be putting its support behind them, and if they're not voting the way the Party wants them to, they're probably going to have a challenger from within their own Party next time.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the R or D labels. It has to do with the people who are there, and us making sure they get replaced with someone better. Because even without the labels those people are going to be bad.

    And the idea that the primary system just brings out the most right or the most left candidate is absurd. I've seen many, many primaries in which the candidate who won was actually a little more moderate, as the people voting in the primary realizes that the candidate does have to make it through the general election.

    Getting a more left or more right candidate typically happens in those districts that are overwhelmingly one political party. Many times, these people make up more than 50% of the electorate. So even if the election was completely open, the chances are that the exact same candidate is going to win.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Just so Pete Forsyth's comment does not go unaddressed...

    He wrote: The current primary system heavily favors candidates at the extremes in both parties. This is because many voters are unable to participate in a meaningful way in the selection of their legislators (closed primaries in heavily D or R districts.)

    (1) Who are these "extreme" candidates? Ron Wyden? Darlene Hooley? Gordon Smith? Oregon's representatives sweep the ideological spectrum, just as Oregon voters do. Is Larry George more "extreme" than Billy Dalto? Yes. Is Diane Rosenbaum more "extreme" than Kurt Schrader? Sure. But that's what I expect from a representative system of government: a good diversity of ideological views. Have we forgotten that Ted Kulongoski and Ron Saxton won the gubernatorial primary in this state, and Pete Sorenson and Kevin Mannix lost? Am I living on a different planet?

    (2) There is absolutely no reason to believe that the One Ballot system will produce more moderate general election candidates than the current system produces.

     (a) In a crowded primary election, it is likely that the moderate candidates could split the moderate vote among themselves and the fringe candidates would emerge in the general election.
     (b) It is entirely likely that two candidates from the same party could wind up competing in the general election.  Recall that in an

    earlier post, I presented this hypothetical (albeit very likely) scenario:

    In a marginal district, if four Democrats run in a blanket primary against two Republicans, chances are the two Republicans will advance to the General Election, because all four Democrats will have divided their supporters and knocked each other out.

    Imagine this hypothetical match-up for the Fifth CD "Open Primary" to replace Darlene Hooley once she retires: 1. Dave Hunt (D) - 14% 2. Paul Evans (D) - 16% 3. Andrew Kaza (D) - 6% 4. Kurt Schrader (D) - 15% 5. Brian Boquist (R) - 23% 6. Jim Zupancic (R) - 22% 7. Other Green/Libertarian - 4% This is a totally plausible, indeed likely, scenario. And in this case, the choice in the General Election would be between Boquist and Zupancic.

    How, exactly, does this election produce a moderate result after the general election? It doesn't.

    I am really tired of people on this blog just repeating talking points without any substance to back them up. I thought this was a forum for elevated discussion.

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    Stacey wrote... and most importantly, they choose leadership by secret ballot.

    OK, so let's do that. We don't need to hide the ball from voters by keeping important information from them.

    Personally, I favor fusion and a low threshold for party qualification. Then, we can have 20-30 parties - and all of them listed on the ballot. Voters will get more information, not less.

  • LT (unverified)

    Kari, I know that is what all the opponents say: But what makes you think that a nonpartisan legislature would solve any of these problems? In a matter of hours (ok, maybe minutes) we'd have a 'progressive caucus' and a 'conservative caucus'. Probably also an 'environmental caucus', and a 'pro-choice caucus', and a 'gun caucus' and, and, and, and...

    I don't "know" that. I do not know who will be serving in the 2007 session and if on the day they are sworn in (or before) each of the 90 members would choose to belong to one or more issue caucuses. But then I don't presume to read the minds of people I don't know. There would be some interesting leadership elections (what would happen to party leaders, caucus offices and their staffs?). My guess is that whatever happens with legislative organization, there may be an informal caucus to support veterans in the next session if veterans like Paul Evans are elected.

    What I know is that the world kept turning, and the sun rose and set even with a 15-15 State Senate in 2003. Depending how things go, if Westlund isn't elected governor, if he and Sen. Gordly became the "Oregon caucus" sometimes talked about, and if the voters chose to elect a 14-14 Senate (which is as possible as the 15-15 Senate was, dep. on who wins) then the swing votes would be Ben and Avel in the "Oregon caucus". My guess is that would result in more issue discussions rather than "my caucus right or wrong".

    I like what Stacey said: Which means we could put the emphasis back on issues and less on an artificial label like party which doesn't really tell you means someone could be a part of the gay caucus AND the gun caucus and work on both of those issues simultaneously- now they have to choose.

    And it would certainly prevent what one former Speaker (Snodgrass?) did with school funding---no discussion needed over where money was spent on education (ESDs, statewide health insurance for employees, does "putting money in the classroom" include counselors and or librarians?) because, in that Speaker's words, "our caucus has decided on a number for school funding".

    If debate was more out in the open, we wouldn't see such folly. And a member of a caucus wouldn't feel required to support the caucus position on everything and could be with one coalition on one issue and another coalition on another issue.

    This strikes me as the old debate between "we've always done it that way" and "let's try this new idea". There are those who say FDR was the definition of a liberal because instead of the status quo he tried new ideas.

    I've been in the "let's try this new idea because the status quo is far from perfect" movement for at least a quarter of a century. Perhaps that is why I consider myself an independent who is currently registered with a party, rather than a partisan.

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    Jenni: Harvard professor Jane Mansbridge lays out the argument in Beyond Adversary Democracy (1980), but the concept is very simple. Closed primaries - open only to party members - tend to produce candidates at the ideological extremes. In a closely contested general election, I agree that there is an incentive to choose more moderate candidates - but lots of legislative districts are strongly D or R, so there is never a closely contested general election.

    You're welcome to disagree, but calling the idea "absurd" is taking it a little far.


    (1) The topic is the state legislative assembly, so I'm going to ignore nearly all of your examples. Diane Rosenbaum has no incentive whatsoever to pay attention to the Republicans in her district. I am not familiar with her voting record or how she deals with her Republican colleagues, so I can't go any further than that. But I see that as an enormous problem in and of itself.

    (2) Let's not conflate "ideologically moderate" and "responsive to all constituents." Gordly's point (from the main article) is that legislators have little incentive to make meaningful policy that addresses genuine problems in the state. If a candidate needs the support of a broad base of constituents, that could change the way they campaign, the way they communicate/interact with their community, and the way they vote. If you disagree that a nonpartisan legislature fails to further the goal of giving more people more of a voice, fine; but if you disagree with the value of that goal, I really want to hear why. I've asked it before, and none of the party apologists have answered:

    In a district that is strongly Republican, how is it acceptable that (say) 40% of citizens who are NOT Republican have absolutely no say in who represents them in Salem? If it's not acceptable, then what is the solution? If it is acceptable, what's wrong with you?

    (2b) I disagree with your claim that this scenario is very likely. I'll leave it at that.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Betsy's scenario in Darlene Hooley's district suffers from party-line blinders. If there truly are a significant number of independents in Oregon and if this district is representative of that trend, then it's pretty unlikely that right wingers will pull 45% of the vote in a primary. If that's the case, then the district is pretty conservative and a Republican would win the seat anyway.

    She also assumes a Green party candidate would be running, but not a Libertarian or Constitution party candidate.

    I'm for the open primary. It won't cure everything and it does come with some new problems. But it should go a long ways to shutting out the know-nothing conservative fringe that has been running the legislature for most of the past dozen years.
    Since polls show that most Americans--and I'm assuming most Oregonians--support liberal policies more often than they support liberal politicians, I'd think the absence of labels will actually produce legislators who are more interested in solving problems rather than advancing an agenda.

  • (Show?)


    I think one corollary to the concept of "let's try this new idea," is the principle of "first, do no harm" or "at least do not harm." I'm not convinced the outcome would not be worse than what we have now, for all of its imperfections.

    In my view, taking away the Ds and Rs after the names of legislators will not end partisanship. Instead, limiting partisanship in this way is like damming a river. Partisanship, much like the river, will simply re-direct itself when one path is closed to it.

    To make the case for this change, I think people in the position of arguing for moving away from partisan legislative races ought to deal with the arguments for why it will not reduce partisanship or for why it could make matters worse, instead of just saying you aren't a good liberal if you are not open to trying a new idea. In general, I think liberals are, as a matter of personality, makeup, etc., more open to arguments for doing things in a different way than they have been done before, if they can be convinced the change will be beneficial.


  • LT (unverified)

    I think people in the position of arguing for moving away from partisan legislative races ought to deal with the arguments for why it will not reduce partisanship or for why it could make matters worse,

    In 2004, Kim Thatcher defeated Vic Backlund in the Republican primary. There are something like 14,000 Republicans and 17,000 not Republicans (no party, minor party as well as Democrats)in District 25.

    All those of you who oppose One Ballot, would you please drop the theory and explain why Marion/Yamhill County residents are better off having had Kim Thatcher as state rep.?

    It is entirely possible that in an Open Primary system with Backlund, Thatcher, and Roger Pike (Dem. nominee) on the ballot that Thatcher would not have come in first--and might not even have come in second.

    That's an actual case, let's hear opponents of changing the status quo explain why the 2004 Dist. 25 GOP primary result was the best for all concerned.

    Or maybe the worry is that voters and not caucus operations (majority/minority office, FP, etc.) would have a larger role in legislative elections.

    All things remaining the same (One Ballot doesn't get enough signatures, no one debates nonpartisan legislature, etc.) there is always the possibility that a candidate not taken seriously by a caucus (either party, either chamber) could get elected in 2006. And if that happens, that newly elected member has all the rights and privileges of a long time incumbent or a heavily favored challenger (such as Cowan or Brading) will have if elected. Those include speaking in caucus, electing leadership, etc.

  • (Show?)


    I thought you were making arguments for non-partisan legislative elections (and that was the basis for my response). Now, I'm not clear if you are arguing for (a) partisan elections, but with a unitary ballot, or (b) non-partisan elections. Please help me out here.


  • (Show?)

    Are there any non-Gordon-Smith-endorsing Democrats running for the Democratic party's nomination in her Senate District in 2008?


    Sure, I could run for State Senate, thanks for pushing my thinking.

  • Sid Leiken (unverified)

    I completely agree that changing to non-partisan legislature will not make a difference. Even in local non-partisan races, you still have conservative, liberal, moderate factions being chased down by special interest groups. The issue of the caucus is part of the problem but even that can be worked with. The biggest problem as I see it is the total lack of communication between legislator's today. I was having dinner with my grandfather, someone known as a legend in legislative politics in the 1960's and was talking about when he was in office and how many times he would have dinner with the leadership from his party, the democrats, or with the republican leadership. Playing cards, playing golf, having a drink at the local pub, etc. This is something you don't see enough of anymore.

    A few years ago I changed my party affiliation to republican, to my grandfather's dismay, but that did not stop my personal friendships with folks like Peter DeFazio, Ted Kulongoski, or some of our local folks such as Terry Beyer, Floyd Prozanski, etc. I continue to enjoy their company and even enjoy a good debate once in a while.

    Sid Leiken Mayor, Springfield

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Pete F.,

    You're playing a crude game of "hide the ball" -- making a bold claim, and then acting like you said something else by trying to defend a more modest claim.

    Either our electoral system is broken because it tends to elect extremists -- and therefore it needs to be fixed -- or it isn't broken for this reason and does not need to be fixed. The debate over the One Ballot measure is not limited to legislative races, because it changes the way we vote for all partisan elected offices in Oregon.

    The bottom line is: Contrary to what you said in your earlier post, Oregon's electoral system does not tend to elect extremists. As proven time and time again, our system tends to elect a diversity of perspectives -- from Charles Starr and Karen Minnis to Mary Nolan and Peter Buckley, and everyone in between. In fact, our closed partisan primary system does a good job of electing moderates, like Ted Kulongoski (not Pete Sorenson), Ron Saxton (not Kevin Mannix), Darlene Hooley (not Andrew Kaza), and in the legislature: Kurt Schrader, Ben Westlund, Avel Gordley, Rick Metsger, Jackie Winters, Vicki Berger, Billy Dalto, Dave Hunt, and the list goes on. That's not to say I agree with all of these people all the time. I don't. But they are all moderates relative to the public and their respective caucuses and they have all secured election in our current system.

    You go on to say that the issue is responsiveness to constituents, not moderation. (Of course, what you actually said was, "The current primary system heavily favors candidates at the extremes in both parties." As we've already established, this claim is simply untrue.)

    The problem with your argument about responsiveness is that: (1) Legislators who are selected in the primary (because there is no viable general election challenge) are selected because they represent heavily partisan districts!!! Tina Kotek was chosen in the primary because she represents a very heavily Democratic district. That's why no one can challenge her in the General Election. So, in fact, she does represent her district quite well.

    (2) Generally, polling data shows that voters believe their particular representatives are HIGHLY responsive! That's why incumbent reelection is so common. They may not like the Legislature in the abstract, but Carolyn Tomei's constituents love her, and Gary George's constituents love him.

    (3) Furthermore, the One Ballot system threathens extremely undemocratic results, by creating a likelihood that two candidates of the same party will face-off in the general election (see my post above about Darlene Hooley's district, above). Gil Johnson says this breakdown is unlikely because general election voters are not so polarized. Gil is wrong. He should study returns from districts like Oregon's Fifth C.D. to see that the break-down I suggested reflects exactly how polarized voters are in these marginal districts in Oregon.

    So, in fact, you're trying to create a system that is more responsive to the electorate, but the One Ballot system winds up being far, far less responsive when 65 percent of voters are disenfranchised in the general election (since two candidates of the same party are left to run against each other, leaving all the voters who are not registered with that party with no one to vote for).

  • LT (unverified)

    At the legislative level, the current system ain't working--look at the secretive and very long 2005 session.

    And for those who say "first, do no harm", I don't understand how harm would come from trying a different system.

    Under the current system, in 2004 Thatcher of Measure 30 fame won a partisan primary and most would not list her on the top 20 effective legislators. Whether she meets the benchmark of "extremist" is for others to guess. But this year she has a strong challenger who is getting support across the political spectrum.

    And knowing someone who lived in Gary George's Senate district before redistricting, I am not convinced that "Gary George's constituents love him".

    I don't have much affection for my state rep. which is why I am campaigning for the challenger.

    But those are specific districts--if people here only want to debate theory, then count me out.

  • Levon (unverified)

    A non-partisan legislature (surely an oxymoron in any true sense of the term) might best be referred to as the "political campaign industrial complex empowerment act."

    Just as ballot measures are popular with political professionals since they can package a measure absent the "baggage" of a candidate, removing the party labels will enhance the power of unelected political campaign professionals who already have too much power in the process.

    What's next? A non-caloric restaurant?

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    I'm learning as I go here, so if it seems like my position is a moving target, I may be guilty as charged. But the core of what I'm supporting has not changed. I am very frustrated to learn that our system does not allow meaningful participation by a large number of voters in very important races. I'm a little ambivalent about how to solve this problem - I do support One Ballot, I'm not sure I really "get" what a non-partisan legislature would mean - but I am unwavering in my desire to find some solution.

    You say that under One Ballot, members of a minority party coud be disenfranchised in the general election, if two candidates from the opposing party pass the runoff/primary. I wholeheartedly disagree. It's the current system that disenfranchises such voters, in both the primary and the general election. Sure, a Republican in my district (H46) will be able to cast a ballot for William Cornett (R) in the fall, but everybody knows that ballot is meaningless. But under One Ballot, that same Republican would have been able to express her preference between Ben Cannon(D) and Mary Botkin(D), and would have a chance to influence who represents her in Salem. If she really thinks all Dems are evil, she'd still have the opportunity to abstain from voting in that race...but that non-vote would actually be a meaningful abstention (properly expressing her unilateral opposition to the Democratic candidates.)

    On your points: (1) addressed above. I think Tina's great, but the results of that race would be more meaningful if Independents and Republicans were able to express their preference among her, Robison, Kirchmeier. Would Tina still have won? Quite possibly - and she could go down to Salem with a little more spring in her step, knowing that she had truly broad support in her district.

    (2) I don't know the numbers - or Tomei - but since you didn't cite sources for these claims, I figure it's all good. Let's suppose Tomei's district is 65% Democrat. Are you saying that if her approval rating is 65%, then everything's OK? If so, I disagree. If all the Independents and Republicans in her district feel she won't even consider their point of view, I'd call that a big problem. A good legislator, in my view, should consider the needs of everybody in their district - if they are Democrats, they should have the intellectual maturity to leave their ideology aside for much of the deliberation process, and seek middle ground. Where middle ground is impossible, their ideological views may be the only guidance they have, which is fine. But the middle ground should always be sought. Exciting? No. But it makes for good, lasting policy.

    (3) Must we? Ok. First, your paraphrase of Gil's point is inaccurate...but maybe you just typed "general" where you meant "primary." Whatever. My disagreement is on different grounds - if that's what the slate of ballots looked like coming up to the primary, you can bet the Democratic party would be doing some pleading/bribing/arm-twisting to get a candidate or three to drop out. If they can't get it done, maybe the party doesn't deserve to win that district...or if none of these candidates can make a sacrifice for party unity, you gotta wonder what right they have to call themselves Democrats.

    Is your scenario possible? sure. But I'm unconvinced that sort of situation would be as common as the current system is undemocratic. (And that sort of scenario can occur under any system - just look at the Lieberman fiasco. Political selfishness will arise no matter how the rules are set up.)

  • (Show?)

    er, correction to above post. Hennrich. Not Botkin.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    The other day I was over in Bend, and stopped by a store that has a few things I can't find in Prineville. At the door of this store was a woman with a petition. In so many words, she asked me to give up my constitutional right of free association if her petition passed.

    -- And she looked like such a nice person trying to do something "good".

    I have, under our Federal constitution, the right to meet with like minded people. I have the right to organize with these people to put forth candidates that I and those with me like for their positions on issues we care about.

    If you take away my right to have free association and promote candidates, then you are messing with not only me, but my country. I will take you to Federal Court, and I will win.

    Why do people think that the label "non-partisan" is magic? If I meet with my friends and have that meeting result selecting someone to put on the ballot with whatever political label we come up with, but I am forbidden from doing it - it's not non-partisan, it is repression. You are telling me that I can't participate in Party politics. You are denying me my rights.

    Now, I don't agree with the way Oregon handles Party politics currently. The primary election and general election practices from precinct committee on up have codified into law a method that makes minor Parties difficult to organize in sufficient numbers to have any power. I'd rather the State stayed out of Party politics and let us caucus around the State and have each Party pick its candidates by whatever means we found best. There is no reason why we even have to have each Party have the same methods.

    I wouldn't mind if 100 Parties put candidates on the ballot for each position. I wouldn't mind if a "Party" meant 5 people signed a petition and got someone on the ballot. If you want more voter participation, then give them something to participate in!

    -- But to have no Party candidates on the ballot is fundamentally wrong, and contrary to the US Constitution.

  • (Show?)

    Betsy, I didn't reply to your main charge above regarding extremism. I really don't know who the extremists are, but I know that the legislature on the whole is very divided, and has failed to act on issues where the public is very united. (Corporate kicker, payday loans before the special session, etc.) I'm not sure One Ballot would even change the makeup of the legislature all that much, but I think a legislator who had to reach out to all constutuents when campaigning would be more likely to work across the aisle while in session.

    My views about extremism are not at the core of what I've said, though. I defended them only because Jenni called them "absurd." They're not. If she'd simply said she disagreed, I would have dropped it there.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    This says a lot more about the state of the electorate than it does electeds:

    I really don't know who the extremists are, but I know that the legislature on the whole is very divided, and has failed to act on issues where the public is very united.

    If the public was united, and had a clue about actually conducting politics in adult way, they would easily elect a legislature that acted on those issues.

    In fact, the public must not be as united as you believe in your fantasy: There are other values people are expressing when they vote that trump those issues and you can bet legislators are reacting to that.

    Now, in this country and particularly in this region of the country, as you demonstrate, a lot of people who have some verbal skills don't necessarily have a clue about good governance. Witness the inanity of One Ballot that in childish fashion blames partisanship amongst legislators rather than the failings of the electorate for our current condition.

    As a consequence, you don't know who the extremists are, because to the plurality in their district that elected them they aren't extreme. That electoral plurality is the extreme. And it actually includes a lot of "independents" who are independent because they are incapable of articulating a set of mature governing values, and instead respond to the "cult-of-personality" style of politics that non-solutions like One Ballot represents.

    Also, Betsy is right on point about the actual problems with One Ballot. Your intellectualization about why having two candidates from the same party in the "general" election is a good thing has no basis in why and how people vote. To the extent that outcome would occur in general elections under One Ballot, all evidence suggests it would further depress voting rates. The overwhelming majority of folks vote for candidates who affirmatively articulate and defend values they hold important, and simply don't vote when none of the candidates speak to their values. (This is not to say those values are good for the republic.) They don't sit there and do the kind of simplistic rationalizations you make. And, as the whackjob right wing has proven, depressing turnout is what actually allows true extremists to gain office --- and I don't have to name them because we all can think of several clear examples in Federal government right now.

    I take this up primarily because the possibility of this outcome is why there is a very good reason One Ballot in it's current form would be in violation of Federal Election law (2 USC 7) for Federal offices. If you really care, you can read the argument why in my posts here:

    In fact, this legislative history of 2 USC 7 cited by the appeals court in the La. case makes it clear that folks a lot smarter than the One Ballot crowd and Keisling realized two hundred years ago that it was detrimental to the country if the outcome of an election in one state was known before other states voted. In this case, the outcome that would be known with certainty is what party would hold a House or Senate office from the state, and therefore how that state's electee would vote in choosing House and Senate leadership --- which is an example of precisely what the Congress was concerned about when it passed 2 USC 7. It is also for this reason that in Nebraska, the non-partisan primary is for the unicameral legislature only. For Federal races, "independents" who want to vote in a primary must choose a party ballot and may only vote for candidates of that party for House and Senate seats.

    And by the way, the Nebraska non-partisan unicameral legislature is hardly a model of moderation, cooperation, or successful governance right now:

    Law to Segregate Omaha Schools Divides Nebraska ex=1302753600&en=613ee46cacb5fefa&ei=5088&partner

    Divisive session ends as it began

    New budget means cut in anti-poverty food programs

    Budget battle brews over extent of savings

    Small towns face big financial issues

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Parties are not the problem. Campaign finance is the problem. Pandering to lowest-common-denominator oversimplification is the problem. A non-functional Fourth Estate is the problem. Remove parties and all the garbage will continue without them.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Steve... if you want to be a member of a party, that's cool. Can I have a tax refund so I don't fund your private primary election, though?

  • Jessica (unverified)

    Avel is my Senator and I'm so upset about this. I'm proud to be a democrat because of the what the party stands for, and wish that she was too. I wish she had instead came out and said "this is what the democratic party stands for and I'm gonna work my butt off to make sure that the public a) understands this and b) gets what it needs. I think anyone who advocates for this type of nonsense needs to go back to school and take politics 101. The party system acts as a filter for voters - I'm so tired of people buying into this crap. Can someone please tell me what's so wrong with partisanship?
    I hope the democrats find someone to run against her.

  • LT (unverified)

    Ask, thanks for the identifying information: "This says a lot more about the state of the electorate than it does electeds"

    Most folks refer to their state legislators, or their local, or statewide, or federal office holders as elected offiicals, or by name or title (county clerk, that new member of the city council, Gov., AG, member of Congress, etc).

    "The electeds" is a form of lumping all elected officials together which some folks (esp. those above a certain age who have worked on lots of campaigns and think any elected official worked hard to get there and deserves to be addressed individually or as "one of our elected officials") find annoying.

    Therefore, ask, my guess is you are a young staffer or were in the last legislative session.

    At a 4th of July local BBQ (gathering of friends, not a political event), there were only 2 conversations about politics that I heard. One was "Ted's my friend and I'm sticking with him" and the other was a couple saying "we just saw the Westlund commercial on TV--he sounds interesting".

    The public is not united, but also Oregon is not another state. So no, I don't expect us to turn into Nebraska if One Ballot is one of the measures we vote on this fall, just as I don't think the Working Families Party will sell fusion voting by saying "it works in New York".

    For those people who oppose One Ballot, it may well face court challenge--is that the reason it shouldn't be on the ballot? If it only applies to state legislative or other non-federal elections, how could there be a federal court challenge? If it applies to federal offices, then that would be an interesting court case to watch. If there were a court challenge, it would define what is legal and what is not legal in a state where over 20% of the voters don't choose a major party. Do those voters have a right to free expression, or must they join a party to be part of the nominating process? I'd like to see that definitively answered. And I wonder how many people there are like me who would be Independent except they wanted to vote in a recent primary and the only way to do that is partisan registration.

    My friend Steve has the best reasons to be against One Ballot, but he does not say the status quo is perfect, either. I believe he is wrong about parties and the Constitution, given how the Founding Fathers saw what they called "factions".

    JHL has a good point--why are taxpayers who are not registered with a major party paying for primaries(cost for county election offices and Sec. of State involvement in running primaries)?

    Jessica, how do you know that Sen. Gordly won't retire after the end of her term? Have you asked her that, or told her you are unhappy with her stance?

    As far as the definition of extreme, no one seems to want to address the specific example of Dist. 25 in 2004 when the woman from Measure 30 defeated a very popular moderate Republican. Jessica, in what way did "The party system acts as a filter for voters " in that instance?

    Seems to me this is about status quo vs. something new. If you think the status quo works, you have a right to your opinion. I don't think it does.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Pete F.,

    It seems to me that the solution you're looking for is a genuine "open primary" -- that's a primary system in which anyone can show up on Election Day and decide then and there in which party's primary they want to vote. This way, all voters have an opportunity to participate in the party nomination process of their choice. No voter is excluded. Primary voting is completely divorced from party registration.

    This system, which exists in many states, would solve the problems you present with our current system, without having the bad consequences of the inane "One Ballot" proposal. Why not just advocate this solution instead?

    JHL, as to your complaint about paying for the party nomination process...

    The reason why the public pays for party nominations is because it's in the public's interest when party nominations are open to all party members, rather than just the select few party activists who would participate in a convention nomination process. Public financing of private primaries is a good thing -- it boosts democratic involvement in the nomination process -- even if not everyone gets to participate. (In fact, everyone does get to participate, since you can register with whichever party you want, and your registration has no consequences beyond which primary you will vote in.)

    Opposing public financing of private activities may make for a pithy one-liner, but in fact the public pays for countless private activities/programs (such as private colleges), because it is in the public interest to do so.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    JHL writes, "Steve... if you want to be a member of a party, that's cool. Can I have a tax refund so I don't fund your private primary election, though?"

    -- I don't advocate the same system we have now. I'd like the State completely out of the business of setting rules for political Parties. I don't think the State should sponsor a "private primary election". I'd rather that my Party, any Party, come up with caucus type meetings where we select our candidates. We don't need the State sponsored election box to select candidates. Frankly, Oregon's system of State proscribed primary elections is somewhat on shaky legal ground - as I have heard from those legal minds I listen to in the Democratic Party.

    LT - The right of free association has been intrepreted by the US Supreme Court to include the right to create political parties that select candidates to run for election. Yes, the framers of the Constitution were worried about "factions", especially in the context of religion, and in the context of a "majority" imposing its will upon a "minority". The whole business of "factions" has nothing to do with the establishment of political parties, but rather how the legislative branch is set up to do the deliberative work of government, and how the executive branch and judical branches act as checks and balances.

    The worry about "factions" was not that there would be 100 parties, but rather that a "faction" of the majority, or minor factions combining on an issue to be the majority; would impose unfair laws that affected only a minority. From those times - an example was the imposition of a tithe tax on those that did not attend the Church of England. What if here in the USA a "faction" of church goers decided that those of us that didn't want to attend church should pay for the privilege? More to the point, the framers of the Constitution pointed out that ALL Democratic forms of government prior to ours had ALL failed because of the problem of "factions", as ultimately one group or another would impose unfair taxes, conditions, or laws upon another faction leading to unrest, civil war, or authoritarian take overs such has military governments.

    -- Having 100 political parties is more in line with the concern about "factions" than having a two-party system.

  • (Show?)

    ask questions:

    You are clearly knowledgeable, thanks for the link to that other discussion, which I had missed. The Court decisions and your description of them are interesting.

    Your critiques are all over the map though, and I can't even follow some of them. Like I said before, "extremism" isn't an important element of my position. I'm done talking about it.


    The fact that One Ballot is actually in play makes it more interesting and more worth discussing. Gordly's defection makes partisan the roles of parties in the legislature relevant, as well. I haven't heard anybody propose a genuine open primary for Oregon, but to the extent I've considered it: I don't really like the idea, mainly because it would make tactical voting a more attractive option. (Yes, you heard me right. Just because people seem to think I oppose party politics doesn't make it so.) But maybe a step we could agree on is simply eliminating voter registration (like they did in North Dakota in the 70s.), or same-day registration (like 5 or 6 other states - all, I believe, in the top 8 in voter turnout.) Not sure those options are feasible with vote-by-mail though.


    I like your post, it gives a vivid and compelling picture of the case against One Ballot. I agree with JHL that having the state fund - and add an air of legitimacy, and convenience - dilutes your argument considerably. Also, One Ballot would not prevent parties from playing a role (by their own internal process) in what candidate(s) go on the primary ballot.


    Not sure who has said the existence of parties is the problem. Gordly has removed a party label from her name, and suggested removing more party labels. But nobody's suggested abolishing parties altogether. I agree with your other points.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    LT - Of course I don't know, that's why I'm hoping we find someone to run against her! Your post implies that it's not okay for me to express how I feel about what she's doing on A BLOG. That's just silly, isn't that what it's here for?

  • (Show?)

    Wow. Where do I start?

    Apparently, I am a party hack . That's an interesting charge. I stand by my statements about the utility of party labels to the voter, behind that stands about 50 years of survey research.

    Eliminating labels doesn't force voters to study the positions of those running for office and vote accordingly instead of mindlessly voting for whoever has a D or R next to their name.

    What really happens--look at the many studies of referendum and initiative voting, and the studies of non partisan elections--is that voters substitute other shortcuts, such as interest group endorsements, newspaper endorsements, etc. Kari is correct.

    Individuals rely on cognitive shortcuts ALL THE TIME. In political decision making, the tendencies are even greater because: a) politics isn't that important to most people, b) the cause/effect relations are very unclear. This is critically important for everyone to understand. It not controversial at all.

    Why is voting D or R "mindless" anyway?

    To Pete: the current system apparently worked quite well for 90 years, and suddenly it is producing extreme candidates. Why? It must be party primaries PLUS something else.

    Besides, I'm not advocating for or against primaries here--I'm saying that making a legislature non-partisan, however you select those candidates--is not a solution to ideological divisions among legislators.

    I'm a fan of lowering the threshold for third party candidates (e.g. I think what the legislature did regarding nominating petitions is outrageous). I'd support multi-member districts. Most importantly, I think we should reform the way we draw legislative districts.

    But to try to remove parties--this is something that hearkens back to Progressive era dreams (and even further to Washington's Farewell Address) of an expert, technocratic, non-conflictual political system. I think that is an oxymoron. It didn't work after the Progressive Era reforms, and it won't work now, no matter how deep its roots in the American political ethods.

    Americans simply have to learn that politics involves conflict.

  • Pete Forsyth (unverified)

    Paul: any name-calling I did was a misguided attempt to draw an answer out of someone who opposes One Ballot, or IRV. How is it OK for so many candidates to be elected with no input from a large number of their constituents? (Consider a "safe" D district: 50% D, 30% R, 20% I. That's 50% of the voters who have no input.) I'm still baffled why none of you will answer this question directly. I resorted to immature tactics/name calling, and I'm sorry for that. I still wonder what you think, but if you don't want to answer, I can't make you.

    I appreciate the experience and perspective you're bringing to this discussion. I also appreciate that of Gordly, who was one of the few Senators to vote against and speak out against HB 2614 (the one you call outrageous.) And of another Senator (who I won't name) who told me it was a mistake to vote for that bill, and supports One Ballot. It's possible their answers are not the right ones, but I feel strongly they deserve serious consideration.

    I agree that HB 2614 was not merely bad, but outrageous. It calls for some kind of response, and One Ballot seems like the best bet to me. I admit that it's possible that my anger colors my judgment...but if so, it's only a tint. I have thought it through, talked it through with people I respect. I have put many hours of my time into this, simply because I am worried about the future of our state, and I see something that looks like a good start.

    Does that make it a mere intellectual exercise to me? Am I repeating talking points? If so, where on earth am I getting them from?? I'm going to keep at it, whether you guys question my motives or intelligence or not. If it makes you happy, by all means keep at it.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Betsy and Paul -

    I know you don't need to here this from anyone because the content of your comments show you are justifiably confident in your views, but someone should acknowledge here that you are doing an outstanding job of intelligently laying out the facts against One Ballot. Unforunately you're mainly dealing with folks who really aren't interested in realistic and critical thinking (thereby demonstrating why elections are not rational decision making processes). Of course, they are extremely representative of the electorate that is the root of the very problem which frustrates them --- rather than the primary system. While we all benefit fom your critical analyses, you undoubtedly realize you are talking to the proverbial "brick wall" for the most part here. It's unfortunate in my mind that Blue Oregon and much of the blogosphere is proving to be relatively irrelevant when it comes to making positive political change, since it is hard to use a venue that is largely about ego-aggrandizement (most bloggers are really all about "hey everybody, look at me!") to examine issues in a serious way.

    LT -

    To be honest, my experience has been there are really only two types of folks who object to the term "electeds": Electeds whose egos are pathologically outsized relative to their competence and who generally don't make positive contributions. And political dilettantes who advocate for candidates and ballot measures wiithout understanding them (for the record, One Ballot would apply to state and U.S. House use and Senate races, and therefore be susceptible to legal challenge in Federal races), based on irrelevant and superficial arguments (Seems to me this is about status quo vs. something new.) rather any substantive affirmative demonstration why this kind of change has anything at all to do with fixing any problems. By coincidence, Phil Keisling who gave us both the politically moronic VBM system and now One Ballot fits into both. And your personal friend Ben Westlund hasn't exactly distinguished himself as a competent elected to this point.

    And you have previously made this statement: I believe he is wrong about parties and the Constitution, given how the Founding Fathers saw what they called "factions".. Steve Bucknum already correctly responded to you based on the actual historical facts, but let me put it in a sentence; The Founders explicitly believed that political parties were the answer to factionalism. You can believe something else all you want. But it doesn't make you right, it just demonstrates you are ignorant of history when you keep misrepresenting this indisputable fact.

    Pete -

    No offense intended here, but it's pretty clear you have another agenda at work in this discussion. Although you acknowledge several posters have made substantive arguments based both on history and the reality of voter behavior, you persist in saying in effect that those arguments are irrelevant. Furthermore, you, like the rest of the One Ballot contigent at base persist in the ego-centric view that because some large percentage of voters are dumb enough to disaffiliate themselves, and even as this very action proves they really aren't that adept at the processes of good governance in a representative democracy, that somehow the system should be changed in an attempt to assuage their irrationality and civic incompetence. Doesn't exactly sound wise, does it?

    So asking in all honestly, why is it that you and the rest of those here who support One Ballot just want to believe it is a good thing without offering any substantive rational argument why it should be? Does it justify some basic desire to not wanting to work with folks who share similar values (that's what parties are about) to do the hard political work necessary to actually accomplish something? Or does it cater to anarchist tendencies that make even good government a thing to be resented? Or is it just that rather unattractive NW tendency to be passive-aggressively resistant, something that has rendered Northwesteners largely unimportant and ineffective when it comes to actually accomplishing much in national government for the last couple of decades?

    I feel quite comfortable in saying that Wayne Morse, who was an independent for only two years after leaving the Republican Party before joining the Democratic Party, and the last outstanding NW Senator, would be appalled.

  • wwf (unverified)

    Paul: any name-calling I did was a misguided attempt to draw an answer out of someone who opposes One Ballot, or IRV. How is it OK for so many candidates to be elected with no input from a large number of their constituents? (Consider a "safe" D district: 50% D, 30% R, 20% I. That's 50% of the voters who have no input.)

    Your basic problem seems to be with winner-take-all democracy. You know, the system we've had for over two hundred years.

    In our system, the candidate who gets the most votes wins. I like this system. But even if I didn't, One Ballot wouldn't be the one I'd go for. Instead, you might like proportional representation if you're more interested in the protecting minority voices from "the tyranny of the majority."

    As far as your name calling goes, it's not just that you engage in ad hominem attacks. It's that those ad hominem attacks are just as misinformed as the rest of the arguments you make.

    Calling Prof Gronke a "party hack" is about the farthest thing from reality I could imagine. He's an academic who makes reasoned, logical arguments almost totally devoid of bumper sticker-like talking point arguments.

  • TJ (unverified)

    "We are all republicans -- we are all federalists," Thomas Jefferson told the American people in his first inaugural address. A "President above Parties" who believed factionalism jeopardized the safety and security of republican government, Jefferson was here setting forth the common principles shared by all patriotic Americans. Jefferson's election -- the "Revolution of 1800" -- would, he confidently predicted, put an end to the frenzied, hysterical party struggles in the 1790s.

    ............. It would seem not all scholars agree on whether Jefferson supported the rise of political parties.

  • (Show?)

    A little amazed I'm the one getting accused of straying from reality.

    wwf: (1) I never called Prof Gronke (who I'm guessing is paul) anything. (2) I never used the term "party hack" - the phrase I used was "party apologist." If you look up "apologist," you'll find its definition is pretty benign. I understand that it can have a negative connotation, but "one who defends" is the sense I intended.

    ask: you're right, there's not much going on by way of intelligent discourse. I'd say it's more due to your attitude than mine, but I'm not interested in getting into that argument. My acknowledgments of paul's, Steve's, Tom's, LT's, Charlie's, and Betsy's points is genuine, because they have said things worth thinking about. Have they changed my mind? No, but if I ever do "see the light" and change my mind, their points will have more to do with it than your antics. You should run around more at recess, we'd all be better off.

    As for egos...whoa. YOU'RE one to talk.


    I don't think the major parties resemble the scenario you discuss anymore. I can understand your view coming from a Green/Libertarian/Constitution party member. But I don't think having "closed primaries" on official state-issued ballots bears much resemblance to "getting together with one's friends." If the current system were more like what you describe (and maybe it used to be), I probably wouldn't have a problem with it.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    TJ -

    Nothing in this paragraph says anything at all about whether Jefferson support political parties. Jefferson in fact formed the Democratic-Republican party (which can be traced through a continuous line of dissent to today's modern Democratic party) in 1792, 9 years before his 1801 inaugral address quoted by this "scholar" in the attempt to bring and end to the post-revolution factional squabbling at the end of the 18th century due to the lack of well-organized political parties.

    Rather than naively doing a Google search to find an essay by a scholar who takes considerable literary license in expressing his opinion --- which may or may not be accurate --- and which you apparently don't have the background to understand, you might want to read the inaugural address itself:

    You'll not even find the words "party", "parties", or even "partisan" in it. What you will find is Jefferson expressing the hope that his election represented a triumph of the governing values represented by his Democratic-Republican party over the factional struggle.

    Onuf's statement the peaceful "transit of power" from Federalists to Republicans marked an epoch in the history of party government it does not follow that Jefferson saw a place for a "loyal opposition" in the new republican order.2 Having vindicated the principles of 1776 -- and of 1798 -- the triumphant Republicans would themselves cease to be a "party." As Republican party activists had insisted for almost a decade, they were the true representatives of the sovereign people. is not saying that Jefferson literally opposed political parties (note the quotes around "party"), but rather Onuf's personal literary expression of Jefferson's hope that his party's values, and therefore his party, would come to be the virtually universal political force in the country. Everyone one would be a de facto member and share the values of the Democratic-Republican party and all other political parties would become politically impotent. That is a far cry from saying Jefferson was opposed to the rise of political parties - or that he viewed them as being synonymous with factionalism.

  • askquestion1st (unverified)

    Pete Forsyth -

    I think you clearly make the point, given your facility with the written word (which is a skill independent of other analytical abilities), that no comment by Betsy or Paul rooted in solid scholarship and critical thinking is actually going to change your mind because your embrace of Open Ballot is based on other personal values that are unrelated to the principles of good governance. Nothing particularly enlightening or unique in that, because it is simply a fact that this is quite representative of the nature of how people actually make their electoral decisions.

    With regard to the rest of your remarks: I've been around long enough to know that attempting to convince folks like you or other Open Ballot supporters to change your mind is not an intelligent purpose for any discussion, and to not be concerned with whether or not you might change your mind. (You might also want to look up what "ego-centric", the term I used, actually means before making reactionary comments about the "ego" of others.)

  • Betsy (unverified)

    OK... let's lower the volume a bit, shall we?

    As far as I can tell, Pete F. has been demolished on every argument he's made so far, so he's putting all of his eggs in this one basket:

    In a district that is strongly Republican, how is it acceptable that (say) 40% of citizens who are NOT Republican have absolutely no say in who represents them in Salem? If it's not acceptable, then what is the solution? (Pete has restated this argument a number of times in this thread, but as far as I can tell, this is the only substantive point he's got left.)

    So let's narrow the discussion to this point alone. Why is it fair that heavily partisan districts should have their representative all-but decided in the primary, when only a fraction of the voters have an opportunity to participate?

    (1) Let's be clear: Everyone can participate in a partisan primary. The only thing stopping a registered Republican from voting in the Democratic primary is a piece of paper. Anyone can register with whatever party she wants, and the only consequence to registering with one party or another is the ability to vote in that party's primary. So, in theory at least, partisan primaries are not exclusive.

    (2) Not everyone wants to participate in the primary. A lot of voters trust the "Party Faithful" to select their nominee. Many voters are not politically savvy enough (or they don't care enough) to participate in the "weeding out" process that happens in the primary. If they live in a heavily Democratic/Republican district, they are more than happy to leave the party decisions to others who know more about the candidates.

    (3) You seem to be identifying a problem where there is none. On balance, General Election voters in strongly Democratic or Republican districts are happy with the candidates chosen for them in the partisan primary process. How do we know this? Because these candidates usually win handily in the General Election! Let's look at some cases from the 2004 election as examples:

    • In heavily Republican House District 2, Susan Morgan beat her Republican primary opponent by a margin of 60% to 40%. In the General Election, she won with a whopping 71% of the vote. Note that about three times as many people voted for Susan Morgan in the General Election than voted for either candidate in the primary. The vast, vast majority of General Election voters in her district were happy with Susan Morgan as a candidate, and affirmed the primary result by throwing their support behind her in the General Election.

    • In heavily Democratic House District 43, Chip Shields beat his Democratic primary opponent by a margin of 55% to 45%. How much of the vote did Chip Shields claim in the General Election? A whopping 88%!!! Also noteworthy here, more than three times the number of people voted for Chip Shields in the General Election as voted for either candidate in the primary.

    You might look at these data and say, "This just proves my point: So few voters decided the whole race in the primary." This would be a mis-reading of the result, however. The result shows that the General Election voters were happy with the candidate selected in the primary. If they hadn't been, there would have been more votes cast for the General Election opponent, there would have been more write-in votes, and there would have been more people who just decided not to vote in that race. The bottom line is: You're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. In districts that heavily prefer one party, General Election voters are satisfied with the choices made by the primary election voters.

    (4) Another noteworthy trend demonstrated by the 2004 results: Most heavily Democratic or Republican districts did not see competitive primaries at all. In these districts, most incumbents ran in the primary unopposed, and then proceeded to win the General Election by a huge margin. Even when there wasn't an incumbent, it was common for the frontrunner to win by a significant margin or have no primary opposition at all. So, again, what problem are you trying to solve? I don't get it.

    Pete F., you seem to have concluded that huge numbers of voters are being disenfranchised by the current system. The evidence shows: you are wrong. You are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist -- or only exists to a very, very small extent.

    Maybe you'll say: "The problem I'm trying to solve may not exist in practice, but it is a theoretical problem. It's just not fair that some voters get to vote in the primary, while others do not." But you'd be wrong on this count too, since, as I said above, any voter can register with whatever party they want and vote in that party's primary. The partisan primary system is not exclusive: it's open to anyone who wants to vote in it. So there's no problem of disenfranchising voters in practice, and there's no problem of disenfranchising voters in theory.

    Maybe you're still inclined to support the One Ballot proposal because it just feels right to you. If you do this, you're blind to the HUGE, HUGE problems with the One Ballot proposal, all of which outweigh the insignificant advantages it might have.

    Remember: One Ballot constrains the free association rights of party members. One Ballot has the probability of producing undemocratic results, since a competitive district could produce two people of the same party competing in the General Election, if the candidates of the other party divide their support and knock each other out of the running. One Ballot will produce more extremist General Election candidates, since the moderates will likely divide their support and knock each other out in the primary. One Ballot will have the result of closing party primaries -- not opening them up -- by forcing parties to move to a convention-nomination system to avoid the problem of their candidates knocking each other out. (Or, as Pete F. says above, parties will need to at least pressure viable challengers to step aside, leaving voters with no choice in the matter.) * One Ballot significantly increases the cost of elections, by forcing a competitive General Election race in every single district.

    The list of problems goes on. There is no good reason to support this terrible, terrible idea.

  • (Show?)


    I assume that when you say

    some large percentage of voters are dumb enough to disaffiliate themselves

    you mean that the "smart" thing to do would be register R in a safe R district, or D in a safe D district, if one wants to influence one's legislative races.

    I don't know where you stand on Steve B's point (in defense of the right to "get together with one's friends and choose a candidate.") But if you agree with it, you have some explaining to do.

    An individual could treat the (existing) primary as an opportunity to brainstorm/strategize with like-minded citizens, or as an opportunity to exert influence in spite of unbeatable odds. But not both. Furthermore, to the degree people engage in the latter, the efficacy of the former is reduced for others. That's not an argument for One Ballot in itself (you have successfully distracted me from that), but it is a problem with the current system.

    About the name is at the top of every post. My resume (and lots of other stuff) is online, and we probably know a lot of the same people. If my motives are so troublesome, why don't you make the effort and gather some evidence...if you're going to try to trash me in a public forum you might as well do it right.

    On the ego comment're too smart to get what I said. That's just tasty.

  • (Show?)


    Thank you for your very thorough response to my question. I'm not sure I agree with all of your analysis. (When I say I'm not sure, I mean exactly what I say - there's a lot to think about and/or follow up on.) I'm going to take that thinking offline though - most of what's going on here now is pointless. But thanks for keeping the substance of the debate alive. It's what I'm here for.

  • Betsy (unverified)


    You are quite welcome. Always glad to have a substantive discussion, even if no one else is listening anymore.

    By the way, I was very serious in my earlier post when I said that what you should really be advocating is a true open primary, in which the election is still partisan but anyone can vote in whichever primary they like. This solution seems to cut right at the problem you have with our current system and it is not cluttered with all of the pitfalls of the One Ballot proposal.


  • Steve Rankin (unverified)

    All of Louisiana's state elections, including legislative elections, are nonpartisan. LA puts party labels on the ballot, but that doesn't make it a partisan election.

    In a partisan election, of course, each party has the right to nominate one candidate for each office in the general election, whereas in LA/One Ballot, it's possible for the two final candidates to be from the same party. (Isn't it better for the voters to have more than two choices in the final election?)

    Nebraska, with its nonpartisan legislative elections, is the only other state that uses One Ballot for any non-judicial state elections. Both Louisiana and Nebraska have voter registration by party, so it's not hard for voters to determine candidates' party affiliations.

    With Louisiana's return to party primaries in congressional elections in 2008, NO state will be using One Ballot for congressional elections. If this is such a great idea, how come no other states use it?

    One Ballot increases the cost of campaigns by requiring the top two candidates to wage two general-election campaigns. In recent LA elections, two former governors "tested the water" and decided not to run; if LA had party primaries, they likely would have run, giving the voters more choices.

    If One Ballot is enacted in Oregon, the parties would likely hold caucuses/conventions to ENDORSE candidates. The parties could require any candidate seeking their endorsement to agree in advance to support the winner; this would mean fewer choices for the voters in the election. (This is the system that Washington state's Democrats and Republicans were using last year, before the federal district court struck down the "top two" (One Ballot).)

    Betsy: You rightly suggested that true, classic open primaries (each voter picks a party on primary day) would be better than One Ballot. It's worth noting, however, that there are two federal lawsuits pending which challenge the open primary. These are Miller v. Brown (in Virginia) and Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour.

    I still say that Oregon's two major parties would be smart to invite independents to vote in their primaries.

    As Betsy said, "There is no good reason to support this terrible, terrible idea [One Ballot]."

    --Steve Rankin Jackson, Mississippi

  • (Show?)

    Anyone can vote in any primary they like-- they only have to change their voter registration.

    I lived in a state that allows you to choose which party you're going to vote on the day of the primary. Let me tell you-- it's a complete mess. There's no registering as a member or anything-- you declare your party when you walk into the poll, and your voter card and the listing of voters are both stamped accordingly.

    I can tell you that even fewer people vote there, a lot fewer people participate in the process, and that I like Oregon's system a heck of a lot more.

  • Richard Winger (unverified)

    Has Senator Avel Gordly actually changed her voter registration from Democrat to independent?

  • Howard Hirsch (unverified)

    I moved to Minnesota in 1972 to attend grad school, and voted in the last non-partisan legislative election there. Up until that point there were "liberal" and "conservative" caucuses in both houses, loosely identified with the DFL and Republicans, respectively, although there were members of each party who belonged to the opposite caucus.

    Minnesota has an open primary, with no party registration, so the party organizations are started from scratch every two years at the precinct caucus level. The parties endorse candidates not only for partisan primary nominations, but also for non-partisan offices such as municipal offices in larger cities and suburbs.

    In 1972 after many years the "liberal" caucus took control of the legislature and instituted partisan elections for the legislature. That was the right thing to do, although as a (almost) lifelong Republican I have been disappointed insofar as the GOP has never won control of the state senate since then.

    Partisan elections should be EXTENDED, not rolled back, and party organizations need to be strengthened. Otherwise we will wind up with government by super-rich self-funded candidates and other political hustlers.

    Howard Hirsch Dayton, Nevada

  • LT (unverified)

    Anyone can vote in any primary they like-- they only have to change their voter registration.

    Anyone who says this should read the excellent book MEGATRENDS--since updated, the original written about 22 years ago.

    One of those Megatrends was "either / or vs. multiple option". The author predicted that as time went on, life would be less about bipolar decisions (black/ white, chocolate ice cream vs. vanilla, etc.) and more like getting ice cream somewhere like Baskin Robbins where they have many flavors.

    Politics is like sales in that nothing sells because the sellers say something is a good idea--something sells because of what customers decide to buy.

    I know there are people devoted to the 2 party system. But is that what all ordinary people want? Or don't they matter because the voters who matter register with parties?

    State House District 49 has over 12,000 Democrats, just shy of 10,000 Republicans, and over 8,000 registered outside major parties. There wasn't a primary there this time that I know of, as this is a rematch of Brading vs. Minnis. Looks to me like there's over one quarter of the registered voters who didn't choose a party. Do those 8000 voters deserve a say in this One Ballot debate, or should they be told their choice is to register with a party or not vote in the primary, that's just the way things are--nothing anyone can do about it?

    Maybe One Ballot has all the flaws everyone claims. But that doesn't mean the status quo is perfect. And I wouldn't get very excited about a candidate who said "People who care about the nomination process register with parties, those who don't are saying they don't want a say in the nomination process".

    And before anyone gets huffy, I am not saying that anyone (Brading, Minnis, activists, etc.) has said that.

    This state only had a 38% statewide turnout in the 2006 primary, as I recall. Some of that may have been people with no exciting race on the ballot (turnout in Marion County with hotly contested races was higher), some of it may have been people choosing to sign the Westlund petition rather than vote in a partisan primary.

    But I know at least one person so busy (with business travel, among other things) that she said "You mean the deadline to turn in ballots is NEXT Tuesday? I won't be home until two days after that, and my ballot is on the kitchen counter!".

    You may say that person should have put voting above all other considerations (this was someone not terribly interested in politics, living in Jackson County, where there may not have been many hotly contested races). But is that the way to get this person's vote?

    It seems to me whatever the organization of voting and holding office, one needs to appeal to voters and not just tell them what they are supposed to be doing because you say so. Having worked in sales, that sounds like someone coming into a store saying "I'm here to look at laptop computers" and the sales clerk says "sorry, we don't sell those but we have this lovely desktop model". In that situation, the customer would have the right to walk out of the store and find somewhere else to shop.

    And it seems to me that the message of many here is "the status quo works fine because we believe in parties" rather than asking people why they think partisan primaries have not worked well.

  • (Show?)

    The point of the partisan part of the primary is for the members of the party to decide who their nominee will be-- not for everyone to decide for them. If people want to participate, they only have to change their registration. There are people who change just for the primary and then change back. There are also those who remain registered under a party, but only to participate in the primary.

    If we go to an open ballot idea, the fact is that the parties are still going to decide who their candidate is beforehand-- the last thing they want is to be bumped out because they had two (or more) good candidates who split the vote.

    The initiative text does allow party rules to decide who is eligible to carry the party's name next to their name-- that rule could be that they have to be approved by the members of the party.

    So instead of everyone who is a registered member of that party getting the chance to vote on who the person will be, it will be up to those PCPs who attend the meeting. And even in the worse turnout, that's still a lot less people than decide now. In Multnomah County, 187,135 Democrats voted in the primary. Even if every PCP position was filled and they showed up to vote, that's less than 1,500 people.

    It also changes the rules regarding the election of precinct committeepeople. The rules were recently changed so that the party can change when PCPs are elected so they're not having to deal with a PCP election and change of officers at the same time they're trying to win elections (such as going to doing it in the odd-numbered years). Some county parties have changed their schedule already, and others are seriously looking at it. This initiative changes it back to being in the May primary.

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