Oregon GOP goes open primary for 2012. But what's the point?!

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

The Oregon Republican Party has decided to partially open its May primary election to non-affiliated voters.

Specifically, they've voted to open the statewide primary races for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State.

Of course, none of those races have competitive primary contests under way. In fact, with just a month left before the filing deadline, they don't have candidates at all for Attorney General and Treasurer.

The one big primary contest that will actually be contested? The presidential race. And they're not opening up that primary race. Of course, opening it up to non-affiliated voters risks giving a big assist to Ron Paul. And we can't have that, now can we?

(Oregon GOP spokesman Greg Leo says that national GOP rules prohibit open presidential primaries; but if that's true, nobody told New Hampshire, South Carolina, or the other 15 states with open presidential GOP primaries.)

So, what are the Republicans really doing?

Well, GOP chairman Allen Alley has certainly been on a crusade to remake the Oregon GOP into a more moderate party. And they say they're hoping that by allowing NAVs to participate in their not-much-of-a-primary, that those voters will somehow think good thoughts about Republicans in the fall. (Puh-leeze. Voters won't remember the details of what was on the ballot six months earlier.)

But I actually think there's something more cynical at work here. As the O's Jeff Mapes notes, they want the state to send a GOP primary ballot to every single NAV voter.

Unlike the Democratic experiment in past years, non-affiliated voters won't have to request a ballot. Instead, the more than 420,000 non-affiliated voters in the state will automatically receive a primary ballot that includes those statewide races.

I think they're screwing with Secretary of State Kate Brown - the only statewide officer currently facing a GOP opponent. Here's what she told Mapes about the GOP move:

Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, cheered the decision by the Republican Party to partially open its primary to non-affiliated voters. ...

However, Brown said it also isn't clear yet whether the state can simply include the three Republican statewide primaries in the ballot that is mailed to all non-affiliated voters or whether some other method will have to be used.

"It's going to take some time to work through this with our county clerks to see how we could actually institute this," she said.

In other words, the Oregon GOP has implemented a plan for their state-funded primary election that may not be achievable by the county clerks.

And so, if this doesn't happen, they'll make absurd claims like "Kate Brown wouldn't let independent voters vote in the Republican primary!!!1!! She hates democracy!!1!!!" Which is exactly the sort of nonsense that often comes out of Oregon Republican party functionaries when they've tippled a bit too much of the sherry.

After all, without actually having any contested primaries on the ballot, what's the point of all this?

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    Full disclosure: My firm built Kate Brown's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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      Oregon Dems should open its primaries, not partially, but all the way. Who cares about Republican motivations--they've got to do something to get attention. Suzanne Bonamici and John Kitzhaber were nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon to be its nominees. Opening its primaries can only help Dems. Such action is long overdue IMHO.

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    I still do not understand how the Republicans can have a half-open primary. Letting independents vote for some positions, but not all seems like it should not be legitimate. I certainly do not know the electoral law, but this seems very weird without additional legislation.

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    Open primaries rob a party of identity, and are usually favored by more moderate candidates. But what the GOP is doing is not an open primary. It's a stunt. If it were an open primary, NAVs would be able to vote in the legislative races as well. They have opened only three races, none of which is likely ot have a primary! Proff Kari is right: it's a stunt.

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    Frankly, I think it's outrageous that the state would consider providing notice about the GOP primary to people who are not even members of the party after having taken no steps to help the IPO its primary election and while the party sits under an order that, to my understanding, bars us from raising money to pay for our elections.

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      I'm sorry, what?! In what way is the IPO barred from raising money?

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        I just re-read the cease and desist order. We are banned from asking candidate to pay a fee to participate in our nominating process (even though political parties are allowed to do so in every other jurisdiction in the United States in which the state does not pay for the cost of the election). I had thought it was broader than that.

        I still think it's outrageous that the state would consider sending notice about the GOP primary to voters who are not even registered Republicans, and go through the expense of preparing an indeterminate number of separate ballots for these people given that the state does nothing for political parties like ours that are trying to conduct a process that is inclusive of the party's actual membership.

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          I think the number is something like 480,000.

          Perhaps the IPO should open its primary to nonaffiliated voters and ask the state to do the same.

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    This just seems very weird. Why announce this only 3 months before the election? And why only do it for a select number of races, and mostly races with no GOP candidate?

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    I don't think there's much evidence of a cynical plot, Kari.

    The primary is achievable by the county clerks; Secretary Brown simply says her office would rather not have partisan races included on the same PHYSICAL ballots as non-partisan races.

    Registered Democrats already get "partisan" races in our "non-partisan" envelopes when we receive DPO ballots. There's nothing wrong with that, apparently.

    The list of states you provide does not contradict Ailey. The GOP rules are here http://www.gop.com/images/legal/2008_RULES_Adopted.pdf, look at Rule 15C.

    I did not go through all the states, but the first couple on your list (SC, VT, VA) require as a part of state statute that the primary be open. I suspect the rest of the "open" primaries are open for this reason.

    The GOP rules consider this as an exception, so Ailey is correct in his statement.

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    The list of state statutory requirements for the primaries can be found here: http://www.fairvote.org/congressional-and-presidential-primaries-open-closed-semi-closed-and-top-two#.TzHQL-NWpWI

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