The Independent Party primary election

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

"If the process being pioneered by the Independent Party spreads, elections and politics in Oregon may never be the same."

It may be summer, but there's an election happening in Oregon right now. Approximately 55,000 members of the Independent Party of Oregon have until July 30 to cast ballots in Oregon's first-ever internet-only primary election.

The Independent Party may be a poor excuse for a political party, a collection of people confused by the difference between "nonaffiliated" and "Independent" - and not united by any particular political ideology, issues, or even a conversation. (The IPO edited these two links shortly after this post went up. See discussion in the comments.)

But don't mistake this vote for a silly internet snap poll. It's a real election, run by the same company that is providing an electronic voting system to overseas military personnel. Each voter has received a password via snail mail - and then will be able to vote online for up to four races (Governor, US Congress, State Senate, and State House) depending on where they live.

And as noted by the Register-Guard, it's historic:

No minor party in Oregon has ever conducted a primary election before. No party of any description in Oregon, major or minor, has conducted an election via the Internet. No Oregon party has ever conducted a primary election at its own expense. The Independent Party of Oregon is currently doing all three. The experiment could change both elections and politics in the state and beyond. ...

For Independents with Internet access, the process will be free, convenient and information-rich. Provided the process is secure and can avoid technical troubles, it could prove popular — not only among Independents, but among others who may begin to demand that their own parties, major and minor, conduct their primaries in a similar way. If the process being pioneered by the Independent Party spreads, elections and politics in Oregon may never be the same.

Many of the candidates who are seeking the IPO nomination will be cross-nominated by another party - Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Pacific Green. If they're nominated by two parties, they can put both party names on the November ballot.

Of course, in addition to the intrinsic value of the Independent label, the real value of the nomination may come down to how many voters actually participate. 41.6% of eligible voters participated in the May primary election. Will even half that many Independent Party voters participate in this new election? What will it say about the Independent Party if just 10% of their voters bother to show up?

In any case, I'm sure you're wondering: who's competing for the IPO nomination? The answers on the jump...

In the 4th and 5th congressional districts, the nomination is being sought by both the D and R nominees - Peter DeFazio and Art Robinson in the 4th, and Kurt Schrader and Scott Bruun in the 5th.

In the Governor's race, John Kitzhaber is seeking the nomination, along with Jerry Wilson and Richard Esterman. Chris Dudley is inexplicably not seeking the nomination.

There are nine State Senate races and seven State House races where both the Democratic and Republican nominees are seeking the IPO nomination. The big ones? Rep. Brent Barton and Chuck Thomsen for the open SD-26 seat; Sen. Bruce Starr and Rep. Chuck Riley in the showdown for SD-15; and Rep. Bill Kennemer and Toby Forsberg in their rematch for HD-39.

Here's the full list of D vs. R legislative races:

See the complete list of 86 candidates at the IPO website.

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    Kari, HD 35 ought to say Tigard.

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    As usual, Kari hits it out of the park (inside joke). JG

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    Hi Kari,

    Thanks for going out of your way to cherry-pick antiquated dead-end links from the web site.

    It's a fair-and-balanced approach that would make Roger Ailes proud.

    For the record, our conversation has taken place directly with our members. Prior to paying for this election entirely at our own expense, we have phoned and emailed about 14,000 of our members and invited them to participate in a survey that will drive the party's legislative agenda in 2011.

    Step 2 of those surveys is happening right now as part of this election. It is a true statement that as of today -- 3 business days into this election -- that more people have participated in shaping the Independent Party's agenda than participated in the platform conventions for the DPO and Oregon GOP combined.

    As to your voter participation comment...

    Our assumption has always been that this will be a low turnout election. The Democrats spent millions on a similar election in Arizona in 2002 using internet, vote-by-mail and telephone and had a statewide turnout of 77,000 out of 843,000.

    Comparing a first-time primary election to turnout for the statewide May election is really apples-to-oranges since people have been voting in the May Primary for decades, and the event is much better publicized, etc.

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      Geez, Sal.

      I called it "a real election". I called it "historic". I quoted the R-G saying that "politics in Oregon may never be the same."

      I thought I was fairly positive. One brief sentence referencing well-trod criticism (that the IPO has a bunch of people who don't share any values) and you called me "Roger Ailes"? Really?

      As far as those "antiquated dead links", Sal, I clicked on the "Discussions" link under "About Us" and the Issues tab on your home page. They were most certainly live links rather prominently displayed across the entire site.

      You appear to have updated those pages since my post went up. Here's what the Issues page looked like when I posted this post.

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        The issues page was intended as a header for the remainder of the drop-down list which you chose to ignore. You also chose to ignore the legislative agenda that we worked on in 2009, which is why I updated it since it was the most relevant issues-work that the party has engaged in.

        Again, selective culling -- repeated here -- for the purpose of creating the false impression that nothing is happening.

        Of course, I have never once seen you admit to a mistake or apologize on this blog for doing this kind of thing, so I will not expect such an admission or apology here.

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          Sal, when I posted my post, the page very clearly said that the IPO doesn't have any issues - but "may work on" a handful of election reform stuff.

          Whether the three statewide steering committee members "worked on" an agenda in 2009 is irrelevant. My point is that your 55,000+ members are not united by any common ideology or set of issues or concerns.

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            ...which, I'll note again, was a fairly minor part of my post. That single sentence - which you're throwing a hissy fit about - was just a brief recap of earlier discussions.

            The purpose of this post was to cite the historic nature of the election, take note of the many important races, and - by implication - encourage progressives who are IPO members to participate. It was, in short, a GOTV post.

            Methinks thou doth protest too much.

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    One other comment: At what point will the party hacks who have been attacking us in our efforts recognize that what is driving the growth of the Independent Party more than anything is the ability of Democratic and Republican partisans to:

    1) Engage in an honest conversation with voters about the problems facing this country.

    2) Work collaboratively to solve the major issues of the day.

    A recent poll by MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal shows that more than 80 percent of voters believe there are major problems with the two party system and 1 in 3 believe that a third party is necessary.

    When you overlay that data with the fact that 40 percent self-referentially call themselves "independent", it is no surprise that for most months over the last 3 years that the Independent Party is the ONLY political party to experience ACTUAL growth here in Oregon.

    In this climate, people like yourself should be thanking us for offering candidates a more moderate and collaborative path because that is what most voters really want.

    Instead we are treated to attack after attack because the simple truth is that most partisans are more concerned with holding and maintaining power than they are with finding common ground and consensus in service to the public interest.

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      So, Sal, is there a slate of candidates for each office? And I presume the Ds and Rs are competing with unaffiliated candidates as well?

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      Sal, if that's true, why are nearly all the candidates seeking the IPO nomination either Democrats or Republicans? Why so few candidates who are truly IPOs first and foremost?

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        I think you missed the point I was making. An important goal is to encourage greater collaboration between the major parties, not to try and be a 3rd wheel in a two-party system.

        We have generally encouraged one-on-one competition between Independent Party candidates and major party candidates where such races are a possibility and encourage participation of the major party candidates where it is not.

        Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that we have more Independent Party candidates running in state legislative races than any other minor party in Oregon.

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      p.s. I'll continue to dispute the notion that this post was an "attack".

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      I posit that what is driving the growth of the IPO is that people think they are registering as a NAV Independent (small i) voter, not the member of a party called the Independent Party of Oregon.

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    Independent = not affiliated with a political party. Therefore anyone who aligns themselves with an established party regardless of the name it gives itself is not an independent.

    Makes even less sense in a Blue state like Oregon where the majority of registered Democrats are progressives. Sure, why not further fragment yourselves into smaller groups like "Green", "Independent", etc. Brilliant!

    Yet another good reason why I'll never pledge allegiance to a political party.

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    sal, I applaud what you and your party of "independents" are attempting here. Well done. I NAV and plan to stay that way. Best of luck and don't let the democrat/republican elite pat you on the head and dismiss your efforts.

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    not sure if it was purposeful or not, but i was glad to see neither Sara Gelser nor my state rep, Jules Bailey, listed on this ballot. as far as i know, the IPO is non-functioning in my house district. i've never heard of any party function, any party activities, nothing. i find nothing on the IPO website showing anything going on.

    meanwhile, Democrats in Mult Co meet regularly, holding political & social events, pitch in for all kinds of charities, and, as active members in our community, meet face-to-face with thousands of local citizens for conversation and the kind of dialogue that makes democracy thrive.

    the Pacific Greens formed several decades ago (i attended some of those early meetings); they proved incapable of generating the kind of grassroots and activity to grow the party. the IPO is not doing anything, either, to demonstrate to Oregonians that they are anything other than a checkbox on the voter registration form.

    you want to be taken seriously, Sal? commit yourself to a decade or two of hard slog where it matters: in the community. that's what most of the Democratic county committees do, and that's why the state votes, and registers, Dem: because this is not a party run by elites (although a few electeds would like to tell themselves they run things). this is a party run by activists and community members. no more true than here in Multnomah County or my former home, Benton County.

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      TA - Of course, I am thrilled by the success that party activists in the Democratic and Republican parties are having at reaching out in their local communities.

      What I find puzzling is the absolute need of some folks -- yourself among them -- to tear down anything and everything that is not part of your tribe.

      The Independent Party is 3 years old. We are not affiliated with a national party that is capable of funneling millions into Oregon to pay for coordinated party activities.

      The state does not pay the cost of recruiting volunteer activists for the party as it does for Democrats and Republicans by distributing precinct commitee person ballots.

      We do not have a well-developed volunteer base or donor base or the money to pay staff to bootstrap efforts to build those bases.

      Nevertheless, we are starting to build local organizations around the state. The current election is helping us to recruit local volunteers and allowing those volunteers to shape the party's legislative agenda in what is the most democratic process used by any political party in the Oregon.

      I make no apologies for where we are or what we have done. To the contrary, I am proud of our efforts and of the support we have gotten from our members. My only goal in this is to build an apparatus that will give Independent and non-affiliated voters a greater voice in our political process, and I am grateful to the legislators and candidates who see the merit in what we are trying to do, even if some of the more partisan Democratic and Republican activists do not.

      People like yourself, whose only interest is to tear us down, do nothing more than to strengthen my resolve. When partisans on both sides are attacking you, it is a pretty good sign that you are on to something meaningful and important.

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        Sal, organize locally and stop attacking people for calling out your political shortcomings. you want to be viable? it's not going to happen online, and it's not going to happen by focusing on elections. the IPO is non-existant in most of the state, and i see no indication of that changing.

        i have no interest in tearing you down, Sal. there's nothing to tear down in the first place. your attacks on me and others (the best defense?) are empty and hypocritical (hm. is that possible?). i am very busy doing positive things in my community -- doing the exact things you are failing to do. your "convention" may work, it may not, but this one thing will still be true: until you have a presence in the community, you won't have anything.

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    Two comments. Upthread, Sal, you made this comment "At what point will the party hacks who have been attacking us..." I assume--correct me if I'm wrong--that you are referring to me as a party hack here since I earlier wrote about the IPO in a post Kari linked. For what it's worth, though I'm a registered Democrat, I've never been involved in party politics save going to one MultCo Dems meeting back in 2003.

    This is relevant because I think you assume that the IPO is being attacked only by party insiders. But it doesn't take a hack (a word I use affectionately) to see some functional problems with the IPO. When you dismiss us as party hacks, I think you alienate possible voters (I've voted green in the past, frequently) and fail to take genuine criticism seriously. Who knows, it might strengthen your party to actually listen to constructive criticism. I won't get involved with the IPO until I see whether you tilt green or tea party when you finally get around to policy questions.

    The second point is that there's a logical problem, it appears, with the entire conceit of the IPO. Either it's a party, willing to muddy itself in partisan politics--the nature of the beast--or it's an advocacy group seeking to undermine party power. It can't be both. I'm not sure what it wants to be.

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    Kari, we've not met, but I think you may be a little harsh on the concept of being an "independent", whether affiliated with an actual party of that name or not.

    For instance, when the Bus Project did it's high school class visits this past year, to register voters, some of the more savvy and intelligent kids, decided to register as "independents". Because they were willing to listen to BOTH sides of an issue. I thought that was very intelligent thinking for those young people in the community.

    But then, I explained to those savvy and intelligent kids that it affected their primary vote in election races that could be won or lost based on who ended up becoming the nominee of the Democratic party.

    And in a number of cases, I witnessed first hand the look on the faces of these young voters, who after the May primary, and a brief discussion with me, immediately went online, printed out a piece of paper, and changed their party to Democratic. By their own volition. It was pretty cool.

    Sometimes I think declaring yourself an Independent is true zen-like bliss, but I'm certainly not there yet. I still have a lot of hope that pure partisanship gives way to results that help and change lives for the better.

    I still think the Green Party cost us the 2000 election, and if we don't woo back those interested in third parties and the proclaimed indies, with strong concepts on where we want to take the state, and why we're best positioned to do so, we could be red-faced in November.

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      I don't know where you think I was harsh on the concept of being independent.

      I understand perfectly well why some folks would reject the idea of being affiliated with a political party.

      My long-standing contention, however, is that most of the folks who affiliated with the Independent Party of Oregon did so because they wanted to express their independence from political parties, rather than a desire to affiliate with the political party created by Dan Meek and friends.

      Given that the IPO has no stated ideology or issue positions - other than those related to minor party election law - it's hard to understand what those 55,000 voters were signing up to support; other than that they misunderstood what they were doing.

      I believe in third parties. I think we should have more parties. I think we should make it easier, not harder, for unaffiliated voters to participate by running for office. I think we should use fusion, IRV, and other reforms to give voters greater ability to communicate their preferences to the political system.

      But I'm not a fan of taking advantage of confused voters - or grammatical oxymorons, like "independent party".

      We should go back to the way the law was just a few short years ago, and use "independent" to describe unaffiliated voters - and prohibit the use of the word "independent" in the name of political parties.

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        Well stated, and exactly the same issue I have with the IPO. It is analogous to changing your name to "None of the above" and getting on the ballot and winning office because people thought they weren't voting for any of the candidates (when they we actually voting for a candidate through the deceptive name). It is disingenuous.

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        So if none of our members realize that they actually joined a political party, then clearly we can expect people to start leaving the party in droves now that they have been invited to participate in our primary election and now that candidates are spending a considerable amount of money communicating with them, right?

        You wouldn't expect the party to continue to grow by 1,000 in June and probably close to 2,000 in July given the amount of communication that is going on with these members asking them to vote when they all really just confused, would you?

        The former legislators, current and former mayors and city counsellors, county clerk, phd professors and attorneys who have joined. All confused? Too stupid to know what it means when they check the box that says "Independent Party" rather than the one that says "Democratic Party", "Republican Party", or "Not a member of a party".


        Well, let's see if you are correct. I bet that the party will grow faster as a result if this election than it did in previous months. Anyone care to take that wager?

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          Clearly not everyone.

          But if the party suddenly changed to the "Electoral Reform Party", your inbound flow of new registrants would dry up to near-zero.

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    Don't make too big of a deal about the name of the Ind. Party. After all, forgetting about what we've come to know about the two major parties, based on dictionary definitions, what does "Democratic" or "Republican" really tell you about the philisosphy of a political party. That they support democracy (who doesn't), or a republican form of government (I bet most Democrats do as well) While you can draw some broad conclusions about the terms democratic and republican, likewise you can say the independent party favors independent objective policy analysis and thought, not subject or beholden to narrow special interests.

    That being said, I do agree that becoming a party will require it adopt positions on many or most of the current fundamental political issues and a willingness to grow grass roots organizations that support those positions.

    Good open government based on reason and the greater good, and resistance to special interest legislation that is contrary to these ideals can be a foundation for the Indy party. But If thats the end of the agenda, then it becomes more like an OSPIRG or Common Cause, and as a party, it will fail.

    Jeff Alworth posed a good question when he asked whether the party would tilt Tea party, or green. I'd modify that and ask if it could become more like the British liberal democrats. A smaller centrist party that could elect a few representatives who could form a coalition and caucus with the D's or R's, as the case may be.

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    Kari, my Google Alert found my name in your last comments in this thread. I am surprised by the vehemence of your series of incorrect statements.

    First, if someone wanted to express "independence from political parties," then why did that person check the box on the voter registration form clearly marked "Independent Party"? Why did that person not mark the box for "Not a member of a party" or merely mark no box at all?

    Second, your reference to me is entirely gratuitous. Do Republcans intend to join the party created by John C. Fremont and friends?

    Third, we are constantly urging anyone who is confused to leave the Independent Party. That invitation has been on the front page of the IPO website for quite a while.

    Fourth, you make several incorrect statements, including:

    We should go back to the way the law was just a few short years ago, and use "independent" to describe unaffiliated voters - and prohibit the use of the word "independent" in the name of political parties.
    To my knowledge, the word "independent" has never been used to describe unaffiliated voters in Oregon. What evidence do you have of the use of the word "independent" for that purpose?

    Prior to its change by the Legislature in 2005, the word "independent" was used on the ballot to describe a candidate who qualified for the ballot by petitioning, but that is not your statement. And it was the Democrats who decided to change that in 2005, because (I believe) they so feared petitioned-for candidates (e.g., Ralph Nader) that they did not want their name to appear on the ballot with the favorable word "independent." Instead, they wanted their names to appear, if at all, with the unfavorable word "non-affiliated," which implies a loner, misfit loser. This bill was the companion to HB 2614, which more than doubled the difficulty of collecting sufficient signatures to qualify such a candidate for the ballot.

    Since you think this change was so bad, Kari, I assume you testified against those bills. Let's see . . . you did not.


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    Further, any cursory glance at easily disproves your statement that the Party has not taken positions on many issues other than "minor party election law." For example, the Party very adamantly supports limits on political campaign contributions -- for all candidates and all campaigns. Further, all but one of the issues from our 2009 Legislative Agenda (on the home page) were not "minor party election law." The agenda included getting electronic voter registration, vastly expanding disclosure of state revenue and spending, bypassing the Electoral College when electing the President, and reestablishing the ability of persons who vote in Oregon's primary election to sign petitions for non-affiliated candidates for public office. None of these issues are "minor party election law."

    As for your advocacy of "fusion, IRV, and other reforms to give voters greater ability to communicate their preferences to the political system," I did not see you at the 2009 legislative hearings on those issues. I was there to testify for IRV and fusion. And do you not consider minor party internet voting to be a reform that vastly increases the opportunity of members "to communicate their preferences to the political system," compared with the usual minor party conventions? If the Independent Party does it, it must not be reform, because everything the Independent Party does is just stupid, right?

    And that is why you advocate now retroactively abolishing the Independent Party by banning the use of the word "Independent" in the name of a political party in Oregon. You want the votes of Independent Party members to not count at all, yet you portray yourself as a advocate of greater opportunities for voters to "communicate their preferences."

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    Kari, please stop misrepresenting our webpage,

    All of the issues I mentioned above have been prominently posted on our homepage for about 18 months (half of the life of the party). We updated the legislature agenda page over a year ago (June 29, 2009) to reflect what the Legislature had done with the bills we were advocating.

    Your claim that our webpage has recently changed regarding issues is highly misleading. Yes, you could find an obsolete link under the Issues item in the menu structure. But you then falsely portray that as the entire discussion of issues on the site, disregarding the rest of even the home page, not to mention other pages.

    I expect more from you that this sort of tactic.

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