Oregon Senate rejects open primary bill

By a 13-17 vote that did not fall along party lines, the Oregon State Senate rejected the open primary bill promoted by former Secretaries of State Phil Keisling (D) and Norma Paulus (R).

Unlike open primary proposals that would simply allow Democrats to vote in Republicans primaries and Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries, SB 630 would have eliminated partisan primaries in favor of a single primary - in which 50%-plus-one would have ended the election, or the top two would advance to the general election.

From the Statesman-Journal:

The open primary would advance the top two finishers, regardless of party, to run in the general election. But several senators objected to a provision allowing any candidate winning more than half the votes cast in an open primary to be the sole candidate in the general election. It's similar to how Oregon conducts elections for some nonpartisan offices.

Supporters said they planned to renew their drive to put an open primary on the ballot.

Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling said the vote gives supporters renewed momentum for an initiative on the November 2008 ballot. "I've always thought the odds of getting this bill through the Legislature were long," said Keisling, who was in the Capitol on other business. "I think it's a real victory that we got it to the Senate floor for a debate, and that we got 13 votes."

Senators voting in favor were Democrats Alan Bates, Ryan Deckert, Betsy Johnson, Laurie Monnes Anderson, Rod Monroe, Bill Morrisette, Kurt Schrader, Joanne Verger, Ben Westlund -- and Republicans Frank Morse, David Nelson, Doug Whitsett -- plus independent Avel Gordly.

Senators voting against were Democrats Brad Avakian, Kate Brown, Ginny Burdick, Margaret Carter, Peter Courtney, Richard Devlin, Rick Metsger, Floyd Prozanski, Vicki Walker -- and Republicans Jason Atkinson, Roger Beyer, Ted Ferrioli, Gary George, Larry George, Jeff Kruse, Bruce Starr, Jackie Winters.

Correction: Initially, we listed Joanne Verger, Doug Whitsett, Jackie Winters, and Vicki Walker incorrectly. It is now correct above.


  • Richard Winger (unverified)

    BlueOregon would do a service to everyone, if it would use the vocabulary used all across the U.S. The type of primary defeated in the Senate yesterday should not be called "open primary". "Open primary" is defined in many political science textbooks, and in US Supreme Court opinions. It means a primary in which parties each have their own primary ballot. The type of primary defeated in the Senate yesterday is "top-two". The constitutionality of this type of primary is before the US Supreme Court. Both sides in the Washington case properly call it "top-two" primary. If the big Oregon newspapers won't pay any attention to this matter, well, maybe BlueOregon can be the pioneer! Someone has to be the first to fix this vocabulary problem.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    How about use sports lingo and call the primary a "regular season" and the general elections the "playoffs"? Maybe that would make it better than "open".

  • pedro (unverified)

    actually, i think it's properly calleda "cajun primary" :)

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Calling it an "open primary" is not a mistake, it is a deliberate P.R. ruse.

    Calling it a "top two" system or a "blanket primary" sounds much less appealing to the independent- and reform-minded voters of Oregon than an "open primary." Who doesn't support increased "openness?"

    You think Phil Keisling -- former Oregon secretary of state and an election-reform expert -- doesn't know the difference between an "open" and a "blanket" primary? Of course he does. But his pitch relies on misleading, intuitively appealing language.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Clear Skies Initiative, Death Tax repeal, Healthy Forests Initiative, and... Open Primaries.

    All of a piece.

  • Dennis (unverified)

    Is it just me or do the Constitution and Green Parties have it completely backwards on this one? Often minority parties draw their support from all over the political map, so having an open primary would allow them to freely appeal to anyone they want, rather than shave support from the fringe of one party or another. And it would give them a more realistic measure of support, perhaps, if people felt free to vote their conscience rather than vote strategically.

  • (Show?)

    Dennis, No, they don't have it backwards.

    First, I don't agree with your claim that minor parties draw support from all over the ideological spectrum. Most Constitution party adherents are quite conservative, while most Greenies are very liberal. There aren't very many parties of any stripe, minor or major, with wide ranging ideological appeals.

    Second, strategic voting pressures exist in a top two primary, although of a different magnitude, as they do in the general.

    Third parties want the validation of appearing on the general election ballot--if you institute a top two, a third party will never make the November election, the time when most voters and political actors are paying attention.

  • (Show?)

    i'm not a member of the Democratic Party -- an active, true-blue member -- just so our primary can be subverted by those outside the party. if people want to do away with parties or real primaries, just say so. if Phil Kiesling wants the Democratic Party to pretend it's not a partisan organization, he needs to just say so. the purpose of primary elections in this country is to let each participating party to select candidates for office. the Kielsing/Paulus proposal is not a primary; it's a pre-election. it's a runoff system with no parties taking part.

    and goddammit, it's not the problem anyway. the problem is the way money is stuffed into the entire system, and the "open" primary would do nada zip gooseegg about that. we need public-financed elections, instant-runoff voting, same-day registration and other truly democratic, progressive changes. not diversions from well-meaning politicians on the wrong track entirely.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I am not sure I fully understand this stuff, but from what I think I know, the courts have decided that the Democratic Party is solely in control of which candidate in the general election is entitled to call him or her self a "Democrat" and that the general public (voters) have no constitutional or other right to participate in the process of selecting a candidate to run in the general election under the "Democrat" name. Think of the "Democrat" name as a trademark owned by the DPO. The party may choose to allow voters to participate in the selection process, but the voters, as such, have no right to demand participation or to control the process. Repubs are the same. Thus, the primary or other method (smoke filled room?) used to determine exactly who will be listed on the general election ballot as a "Democrat" is entirely up to the party itself. If DPO were to decide that only people who weigh more than 265 pounds were entitled to nominate candidates entitled to run as "Democrats" in the general election, then only good looking guys like myself could determine who could run.

    Not a bad idea, now that I think about it.

  • irm16 (unverified)

    So...Is this proposal finally dead, now and forever?

  • James Frye (unverified)

    I sure hope so. I'd sure not like it one little bit if the Republicans decided who their candidate was then got together to make sure we got a local Joe Lieberman on the (D) side so their candidate would be assured a win. So-called "independents" want to be included in selecting candidates for the general election? Then get off your high horses and register with a party, dammit!

  • Vicki Walker (unverified)

    Please correct your posting. I did not vote in favor of the "open primary" bill. Thank you.

    Sen. Vicki Walker

  • LT (unverified)

    Let's talk about some real life examples. If Peralta, Nelson, Terry in 2006 (or Backlund, Thatcher, Pike 2004) had been in a top 2 primary, who would have won?

    Given that the fastest growing party is no party at all, why not let those who don't register in a party vote in primaries? Or alternatively, if partisans want to nominate their own, why not have them pay for it, rather than requiring tax money from those not registered in a party (over 20% last time I checked) to pay for a primary they can't vote in?

  • (Show?)

    Senator Walker, thanks for the correction. We've updated our post. For some reason (unsure about whether it was the original source, or just an editing glitch), we had the last four alphabetical Senators listed backwards.

    We've now Joanne Verger, Doug Whitsett, Jackie Winters, and Vicki Walker correctly. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • (Show?)

    T.A., your analysis leaves out an important point: under the current system, the people of Oregon provide funding and legitimacy for the primary elections of the two major parties. The Secretary of State's office and county elections offices conduct those primaries. Thus, in principle, we all have a legitimate claim to influencing how they are conducted.

    I agree that there are problems with campaign finance as well, but those are not the primary focus of the One Ballot initiative.

    The problem that I have with the current system, and what I believe One Ballot will address, is that there is very little incentive for candidates (for the state legislature, in particular) to reach out broadly to their communities in their campaigns. In a heavily D- or R-district (and most are), the choice is effectively made in the primary election, by a very narrow slice of registered voters, and only by those registered with the dominant party.

    In my view, that is not a recipe that encourages legitimate engagement on issues; pandering to a narrow base is rewarded.

    This change is not intended as a "quick fix," and LT, while I understand your concern, I don't believe specific hypothetical races are the primary standard by which this change should be judged.

    disclosure: I've done work for the One Ballot campaign, but I'm speaking entirely for myself.

  • (Show?)

    LT, I think you deserve a better answer than what I gave above.

    In the races you describe (I'm somewhat familiar with the former, not really with the latter) it's entirely possible - perhaps even likely - that the exact same candidates would have come through the primary, and the exact same one would have won the general.

    The important difference is that in order to secure that victory, the candidate would have to run a different sort of campaign. There would be a greater incentive to reach out to multiple constituencies.

  • (Show?)

    Are Oregon Democrats insufficiently centrist for Phil Kiesling's standards? Isn't that really what we're talking about here?

    The Republican party largely fields candidates for statewide office out of the mainstream -- and loses election after election as a result. But I don't personally see this as a problem shared equally on both sides.

    Why would we create a system that radically increases the cost of elections if the problem is really the hijacking of the Republican party? I've been asking for more than a year now, but if any proponent would like to make the case that this is a problem equally among both major parties, I'd like to hear it.

    This idea, thankfully gone for this session, would also create the potential for weird, undemocratic outcomes. An example:

    "Open" Gubernatorial Primary (Round 1):

    Kevin Mannix: 23% Ron Saxton 20% Ted Kulongoski: 19% Jim Hill: 18% Bev Stein: 17% Hippy Johhny: 4%

    "Open" Primary General Election:

    Kevin Mannix (R) Ron Saxton (R)

    Does a runoff between two candidates in the same party strike anyone else as a profoundly poor reflection of voter sentiment? I don't think that's a far-fetched scenario; just get two candidates of the state's minor party (Republican) and three viable candidates from the Democratic party and this becomes a distinct possibility.

    This system would -- ironically -- reward party loyalty and likely lead to greater party discipline. Also, it would vastly increase the cost of elections, as T.A. notes above.

    I live in Chip Shield's district, and am very happy with my representation. Why double the costs of elections in safe D seats? What's the point? Yes, most "safe D" contests are over in the primary, but for a very good reason: the preference of the majority of general election voters.

  • (Show?)

    CB wrote The Republican party largely fields candidates for statewide office out of the mainstream -- and loses election after election as a result.

    Can I add two letters? "The Republican party largely fields candidates for statewide office out of their mainstream"...


    As for the rest, it suffers from the same logical fallacy that plagues all the conversations about instant runoff, range voting, clean money, and other election reforms.

    It assumes that when you change the rules, the players will play by the same strategies they used under the old rules.

    Maybe they will, probably they won't. Surely, parties and candidates and other players will change their behavior when the incentives are different. Plus, when some players adjust their behavior, that'll cause still other players to adjust theirs, which causes the original players... oh damn, "never get into a land war in asia..."

    The point is that we really CAN'T know what the eventual electoral outcomes will be with any specificity - or that they'll even be consistently predictable. (Clean Money, you'll recall, elected two incumbents - one in the system, one outside; does that mean anything about Clean Money as a set of rules? No.)

    So, how do we judge a proposed rule change? As I've said before, very simply: Is it good for democracy? Will it involve more people in the process? Will it increase the role of more people, and reduce the role of money, power, and specific individuals?

    I'm not convinced that the Open Primary measure will help Democrats win more seats in the short term, but I am convinced that whenever more people are part of the process, over the long term, progressives will out.

    • (Show?)


      Few (if any) advocates of alternative voting methods such as Score Voting (aka "Range Voting") believe that the same strategies would apply under a different system. The point is that those alternative systems produce much better results, even when gamed.

      In a game theory sense, their Nash equilibria lie in a more utilitarian space. This is easy to see (at least from a voter strategy perspective) if you consider a scenario where a Nader supporter might ordinarily vote for Gore in the present system. With Score Voting, his best tactic would be to give Gore a 10 and Bush a 0, to have a maximum strategic effect on the frontrunners. But then he could still give Nader a 10. Thus Nader actually could win if enough voters preferred him to Nader and Gore -- even if no one believed he had a chance.

      These game theoretical differences have game-changing effects that don't simply go away when voters and/or candidates try to game the systems. Some systems are just inherently better, regardless of gaming.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, if you go back and re-read my scenario above -- and it's not far-fetched -- a general election between two statewide candidates of the same party is NOT good for democracy. Not only would this system lead to less choices, it would INCREASE the cost of elections and the role of money in campaigns. Also, my point about the current Republican and Democratic primaries is that the problem this system seeks to fix exists primarily within the Republican party, not both parties equally. That's not speculation about implementing this system here, it's an argument that the proposal is an inappropriate solution to an inaccurately defined problem.

    But of course it's totally reasonable to look at likely outcomes, and also similiar experiments in other states. The Keisling plan is very similiar to Louisiana's system, which has not created a stampede of moderation.

    Proponents argue the positive (and dubious in my opinion) potential outcomes, so it seems disengenous to say that we really can't know how the system will affect behavior when confronted with a negative outcome. Either we can reasonably predict outcomes -- i.e. "greater incentive to reach out to multiple constituencies" (above, from Peter) -- or we can't.

    You mentioned the Voter-Owned Election system, but I'd argue last year's Measures 46 and 47 are better examples. Regardless of how you voted, did you honestly not think consider candidate outcomes before casting your vote? I don't see why the Keisling plan should be held to less scrutiny.

  • (Show?)

    Charlie, can you say where a proponent of One Ballot has said it's impossible to predict how the system would affect behavior? Neither Kari nor I have said so, at least not in this discussion.

    To be honest, your governor's race scenario does seem far-fetched to me. You bring up the example of Louisiana: current Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco has faced a Republican in the runoff in each of three statewide elections since 1995, and in a local election in 1988. In '87, she faced another Democrat, in what I would guess is a Dem-leaning legislative district - which in my view, would be an illustration of the strength of the system. The electoral history of her Republican predecessor, Mike Foster, is similar.

    Finally, making an assertion about a hypothetical election (e.g., 2006 gubernatorial election under One Ballot system) is a very different thing from discussing incentives. If Democrats or Independents can vote for a Republican in the primary, that is sure to change the way that some Republicans run; that is not a specific outcome, but a simple matter of understanding that politicians look for ways to succeed under the system they're running in.

  • (Show?)

    Charlie, can you say where a proponent of One Ballot has said it's impossible to predict how the system would affect behavior?

    Yes, Kari's point was that it's a logical fallacy to argue that people will apply current behavior to a new system; that they will change their behavior to meet a new landscape.

    The point is that we really CAN'T know what the eventual electoral outcomes will be with any specificity - or that they'll even be consistently predictable.

    I agree with him that people and political parties will adjust. But we can pretty safely predict this will increase the costs of elections and the role of money in politics. Also, third party voices are likely to play a much smaller role in this system: minor parties for the most part will be eliminated in the first round of voting and less likely to influence the general election debate.

    Pete, I mentioned Louisiana as a real-world example of the good government, broad-based campaigns this system creates. Or doesn't create. I've worked in Louisiana; trust me that this is not a bastion of successful good government reform.

    Louisiana's system, btw, was really the creation of one politician, Ed Edwards, who promoted the "reform" so he could become governor himself under the system a few years later. Once considered a reformer, Edwards later was sent to federal prison on racketeering charges. Edwards' 1991 race against Klansman David Duke produced the memorable bumper sticker "Better a lizard than a wizard."

  • (Show?)

    To be honest, your governor's race scenario does seem far-fetched to me.

    Three viable candidates of one party, two viable candidates of another. When there's an open seat, there's nothing far-fetched about it at all. The party who is able to control the number of candidates entering the race will be at a distinct advantage.

    I do think the sponsors asked some interesting some questions; they just arrived at the wrong answers.

  • (Show?)

    Okay, I took Kari's comment as a simple - and true - statement about predictability. Just as one can state that weather prediction is an inexact science, but still plan for global warning, without being a hypocrite. It doesn't sound disingenuous to me, but I see what you mean now.

    It's no secret that Louisiana's government is corrupt, but what does that prove? If it's so likely that two candidates from the same party would advance to the general election in a statewide race, I thought maybe it would have happened under the system that you (rightly) call similar to One Ballot. Just exploring your point. I didn't see that phenomenon in the Senate races, either.

    But you're raising a different point about Louisiana now - are you saying that their ballot system is responsible, or a major contributing factor, to the corruption in that state? If so, please spell it out - that would definitely be cause for alarm.

  • (Show?)

    that should be "the Senate races I looked at."

  • (Show?)

    On the "far-fetched-ness" question:

    In reality, Kulongoski - in spite of a tough race, facing opposition from groups like SEIU, the Multnomah County Democrats, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and a raft of BlueOregonians - drew 54% in the primary, to 2nd-place Jim Hill's 25%.

    So where did your hypothetical scenario, in which he earned 19% to Hill's 18%, come from?

    Hypotheticals are fair game, provided they're not designed with a specific outcome in mind.

  • (Show?)


    There is a pretty simple solution to your objection: just allow individuals to "register" the day of the primary by picking one or the other party's ballot.

    If your response is that the "no party" folks object to even that low level of "party" affiliation, then I'd respond that they've made their "choice," and they'll just have to wait until the general.


    Charlie, you are exactly right--just because we can't know what will happen doesn't mean we can't try to predict (and I have to disagree with Pete here--this is exactly what the proponents are doing--during the initiative process, they regularly claimed that One Ballot would reduce party polarization).

    Don't neglect the other real-world examples: Peru (Fujimori election as the most egregious one); France (le Pen's second round appearance in 2001).

    One-ballot proponents can argue until they are Blue (ha ha) in the face that Oregon is so different that it's not comparable to anywhere else, but the real world evidence on two-round systems simply does not support that claim that they are associated with moderate second round candidates.

  • (Show?)

    But you're raising a different point about Louisiana now - are you saying that their ballot system is responsible, or a major contributing factor, to the corruption in that state?

    Pete, of course I'm not saying that Louisiana's primary system is a cause of corruption. I'm saying that there is no evidence of this sytem reducing party polarization or producing any actual improvement in the workings of Louisiana government. Just isn't there.

    Also, my example of a hypothetical match-up was very loosely based on the 2002 line-up, the last year in which there wasn't an incumbent on the ballot. I used this plausible scenario to show how two candidates of the same party could make it to the general election. It's a hypothetical to illustrate the weakness of the system; testing for blind spots seems perfectly reasonable and "fair game" to me.

    I don't mean to take a cheap shot at the 2006 campaign, but from an outsider's perspective, the One Ballot campaign's tactical blunders are somewhat of a microcosm of what's wrong with the substance of their initiative. That is, in the One Ballot view of the world, Oregon independent voters are engaged citizens equally fed up with both parties, they long to participate but are prevented from doing so because of closed primaries. ("Closed" here is truly a misnomer; all that prevents voters from participating is checking a party on their reg. form)

    In reality -- according to numerous studies on this topic and the anecdotal experience of most canvassers -- independents are typically the least politically active, least informed, most expensive universe of voters that a campaign can engage.

    I realize hindsight is 20/20, but when I heard that the One Ballot campaign was targetting independent voters (including mailing them initiative forms) I thought that it was a HUGE and costly error that might prevent them from making it on the ballot. Maybe no one could have known for certain that these voters would fail to respond in large numbers, but it was a reasonable assumption given the data. Just as it's reasonable to look at how this system will increase election costs and reduce the role of third party voices.

    I'm all for bringing more people in to the democratic process. I just think this idea hasn't been thought through and is the wrong solution for our state.

  • (Show?)

    Also, briefly: 1) "being a hypocrite" are Peter's words above, not mine. I don't think Kari's being hypocritical; I view this issue as a fight among friends. 2) I truly do know how to spell "targeting" (above) 3) Paul has much more academic expertise with these issues; I'll defer to his wisdom and tend to my BBQ. Cheers.

  • LT (unverified)

    Folks, take it from someone currently working in retail who worked yesterday, today, will work tomorrow and then work the closing shift the next 2 days----use all the hypotheticals you want, but reality is that the people who decide any election are those working in / shopping in retail stores, or camping this holiday weekend, or doing other non-political activities. Stop 5 people on the street or doing such activities and ask them "do you believe one political party is better than the other one" and you might get surprising responses including "on a beautiful day like this, not even in an election year, you are asking me THAT?!"

    You may think statistics will tell you how such people will vote, but reality is that if you talk to 10 such people about open primary, you may have to explain some of the fine points to some of them, but you might get as many as 6 different points of view. "Sometimes I vote for one party, sometimes I vote for the other party" is one such point of view.

    It would probably amaze those of you who live and breathe politics how many people already look at the primary lineup and decide which party to register with for a particular primary. I am one of those folks (having been NAV from post-primary 1996-late March of 2006).

    As for effect on polarization, ideology, etc. think about this: Suppose Majority 2006 and Future Pac were dissolved and each campaign was run locally appealing to all voters, not just those registered in a major party. How many of the hypotheticals above would change?

    And those who want same day registration should come out publicly and say "Support same day registration", not make it an aside in this discussion.

  • (Show?)


    It was not my intent to make this personal, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I meant only to illustrate the danger of casual hypothetical cases, not to accuse you of willful deception. Above, you said proponents were disingenuous; I assumed that you were looking to draw out the salient points of the debate, not to undercut anybody's credibility. I think we're in agreement - there's no need to "go personal" in this discussion, when it's clear (at least to me, with the current participants) that everyone is genuinely seeking the best system.

    So, back to the nuts and bolts:

    I didn't recognize the 2002 primary (though I suppose Stein was a clue.) I understand you were speaking casually, but I think the specifics will clarify that One Ballot would not have been a threat to progressive ideals in that election, either. Here are the number of votes for every candidate who won more than 15,000 votes:

    • Kulongoski: 170,799
    • Hill: 92,294
    • Stein: 76,517
    • Mannix: 117,194
    • Roberts: 98,008
    • Saxton: 93,484

    So, even if independents had cast 120,000 votes for Mannix and Saxton - evenly divided between the two - and none for Democrats, Kulongoski and Mannix still would have advanced to the general election.

    Or, even if the clever Republicans muscled Roberts out of the race, and distributed his votes at their whim between Saxton and Mannix, there's no plausible way both Saxton and Mannix could have earned more votes than Kulongoski - right? Play with the numbers, I think you'll agree.

    Now, there may be another scenario you could offer, but please consider this first: while a two-R or two-D general election is not impossible, it is a simple fact of politics that ANY system can have terrible consequences on occasion. But that alone is not a sufficient reason to reject a system; if it were, we'd be hearing a massive outcry to adjust the way judges are elected in Multnomah County following the Roberts/You/Henderson situation.

    On the flip side, under the current system, we could learn shortly after a primary that the Democratic candidate is in the pocket of every regressive PAC in the state, or has an insurmountably checkered past. Also bad for Democrats; also not farfetched; also not a reason to get rid of primaries altogether.

  • (Show?)

    While potential weaknesses are definitely worth considering, for me, the first question in evaluating a new system is "would it have a positive effect?"

    In my view, the greatest benefit of One Ballot would be in the state legislature.

    The goal is a simple one: I believe that candidates who are connected to their communities in multiple ways, and have ongoing relationships with a diverse array of constituents, are best equipped to act in their community's best interests.

    "Left vs. right" and "far left vs. moderate" are important things to consider, but that's not what it's about to me. Rather, it's about insiders vs. outsiders, abuse of power vs. stewardship of the common good, short term vs. long term planning, corruption vs. public service.

    Our present leaders - as much as I admire many of them, in many respects - are not effectively guiding us toward broad consensus on land use planning. In a recent thread, Sal Peralta described a case where a Senate committee killed a bill that passed unanimously in the House. When Minnis was in charge, she did the same to a bill for which Rep. Hunt had built a strong consensus, that would have rolled back the double majority.

    People don't trust the legislature - just ask a legislator.

    That has to change, and I believe One Ballot is a strong step in that direction.

  • LT (unverified)

    "On the flip side, under the current system, we could learn shortly after a primary that the Democratic candidate is in the pocket of every regressive PAC in the state, or has an insurmountably checkered past. Also bad for Democrats; also not farfetched; also not a reason to get rid of primaries altogether."

    Actually, that is not a hypothetical. After the 1986 Dem. US Senate primary where there was more than one strong candidate, the nominee was forced to withdraw after an ethics investigation. The replacement nominee was chosen in a replacement convention held by the state party in a union hall in Portland. It was probably true that the eventual nominee had called and personally asked for the votes of every voting delegate, and the guy who gave the strongest speech had alienated most of the people in the room at one time in his long career. Not exactly representative (except that the people casting votes had been chosen as State Central Comm. members by their county parties) but that is the way the system works when there is a vacancy after nomination.

    Bottom line: the most perfectly designed system can have bad outcomes sometimes. Is that a reason not to experiment? Is the status quo that great?

    There may have been flaws in the actual open primary bill which was voted on. The antidote to that is along the lines of "gee, could have supported it if not for the language in Section 5" or some other specific.

    Too much of this discussion sounds abstract. No, I don't think if One Ballot became law we'd have a Fujimori situation on our hands. Nor do I think we'll ever see as famous an author running for office as the one who once ran against Fujimori.

    And Charlie, about this: "Are Oregon Democrats insufficiently centrist for Phil Kiesling's standards? Isn't that really what we're talking about here? "

    How do you know what "Oregon Democrats" think about anything? Do Polk Democrats, Lincoln County Democrats, Jackson County Democrats, Crook County Democrats (meaning either the ones who attend party meetings and the ones who are registered Dem. in those counties) all think alike?

    A former Secretary of State has no right to an opinion?

    What does a "centrist" believe anyway about the power of caucuses in legislative elections (did Future Pac exist when Keisling was a legislator?) or any number of issues? Aren't all Democrats individual thinkers? There may be individuals across the spectrum in the Democratic Party who have all sorts of opinions.

    I knew Phil Keisling before he was a legislator, and no one will convince me of the justice of their cause by badmouthing him.

  • (Show?)

    It would probably amaze those of you who live and breathe politics how many people already look at the primary lineup and decide which party to register with for a particular primary.

    I don't have current stats at my fingertips, but the numbers won't surprise me: The number of people that change parties regularly, just before primary elections (presumably so they can vote in whichever primary cries out for their participation) is... roughly... give or take... zero.

    OK, not actually zero. But close enough to zero as to render that population statistically and strategically meaningless.

    A real-world situation that proves the point: Every once in a while, there's a campaign where one side or the other calls on its adherents to re-register and vote in the opposite primary, so as to cause "mischief" (defined as voting for the presumed weaker opponent.) I'm pretty sure I'm right when I say that that has never worked.

  • (Show?)

    In my view, the greatest benefit of One Ballot would be in the state legislature.

    Hi Pete, I agree with you that legislation would be improved. Right now, we have a primary system that generally rewards the most partisan candidates in all but about a half dozen legislative races. I think this exacerbates the deep divisions in the legislature, and keeps many good people out of politics.

    I don't see open primaries as a magic bullet, but I agree that they're a step in the right direction.

  • (Show?)

    Sal, I agree that we need structural reforms -- and I'm all for them when I think they're going to lead to more inclusion, more people involved. I strongly support public financing of elections, generally like fusion voting, and voted for last year's Measure 46 (to allow limits). But this measure I think is addressing a misdiagnosed problem.

    I don't see the Republican and Democratic party primaries as equally polarized. For example, in a crowded Republican field, you'd typically expect a hard-right campaign to be the most well positioned to mobilize their base. But I just don't see Dem primaries rewarding the "most partisan candidates." I'd point to the Ben Cannon decisive victory as an example, keep in my mind this was a pretty crowded and competitive field.

    Also, unlike Pete, I'm pretty happy with the Dems ability to enact important legislation this session that matters to people: the clean energy bill, SB 2, the bottle bill and much, much more. I think we're having the type of session that renews people's faith in the process rather than highlights the need for reform.

    I think it's easy to say that people mistrust the Legislature, but we'll see how they mistrust their individual legislators next year. I would say that in Louisiana -- where this system has been in place for more than 25 year -- there's no discernable trust in government because of this system.

  • (Show?)

    LT: How do you know what "Oregon Democrats" think about anything? Do Polk Democrats, Lincoln County Democrats, Jackson County Democrats, Crook County Democrats (meaning either the ones who attend party meetings and the ones who are registered Dem. in those counties) all think alike?

    A former Secretary of State has no right to an opinion?

    I knew Phil Keisling before he was a legislator, and no one will convince me of the justice of their cause by badmouthing him.

    First, you misunderstood my original statement. Since we are talking a structural election change, I asked if Oregon Democrats -- referring to our statewide officials -- are insufficiently centrist. I was not referring to individual county voters. My point is that I don't think the problem of party polarization is equally shared among the Democratic and Republican parties.

    To the red herrings: I disagree with Phil Keisling. That does not mean I'm bad-mouthing him. Also, where did I write that Phil Keisling has no right to an opinion? LT, on issue after issue, you thow this out, but I want to be clear: I can disagree with you -- or Phil Keisling -- without the inference that someone "has no right to an opinion."

  • (Show?)

    Sorry for the typos: 1) "year" should be "years" 2) no discernable increase in trust of this system 3) "thow" should be "throw".

  • (Show?)


    I'm not sure where you get the idea that I'm unhappy with the important legislation that Democrats have passed this session. There's plenty of it, and I applaud them for it.

    But this state has serious problems: Measure 37 threatens to fundamentally alters land use planning, and was given the appearance of winning voter approval by a deceptive ad campaign; the minimum corporate tax is ten dollars per year; and the ludicrous "kicker" makes our government pay money to send money to taxpayers, when its two-year financial predictions invariably - and predictably - fall a hair short of total accuracy.

    In addition, issues on which there may be massive consensus, but that fly under the radar for whatever reason, invite opportunism by legislators that have won their seats by appealing to a narrow base of powerful individuals.

    In my experience, the legislature under the current rules

    These are not Democratic or Republican issues, they are matters where there is possibility of consensus among a vast number of people and organizations that might vary enormously on ideological lines. Our present system has not been effective at getting leaders to successfully seek that consensus, even though many of them do excellent work on other issues.

    You continue to dismiss proponents' arguments as arguing for a "centrist" legislature; it may be that some have argued that way (including today's Oregonian editorial), but I am not one.

    I am seeking a system that increases the ties between legislators and their communities, and thereby increases their accountability; and I'm pretty sure I've found it.

  • (Show?)

    Sorry about the fragment above, beginning "In my experience…"

  • (Show?)

    Pete, let's not make the mistake of assuming that changing our primary election system is going to lead to any particular policy outcome.

    Law of Unintended Consequences: It's entirely plausible that open primaries could tend to lead to moderate Republicans getting elected in toss-up districts. If that happens when the right-wing leadership is still in place, the Lege will shift rightward.

    Or, maybe, it'll tend to elect moderate R's in safe R seats, tending to shift the Lege leftward.

    Hard to know. Impossible to predict.

  • (Show?)
    <h2>Kari: agreed. I brought up specifics only to indicate the issues that motivate my thinking, not to predict that they would be resolved by the system.</h2>
in the news 2007

connect with blueoregon