Ballot Measure 65 would be good for Oregon

On Oct. 13, your newspaper ran a story on Ballot Measure 65 written by Ryan Kost of The Associated Press. In the story, Kost says "proponents say the measure would give minor party and unaffiliated voters a stronger voice in state politics" and then proceeds to spend most of his time interviewing minor parties and describing their view of how it might impact them.

He misses the point.

That is not the purpose of Measure 65. Its purpose is to give all voters and candidates the opportunity to participate in primary elections in Oregon. Current Oregon law limits participation to registered members of the Democratic and Republican parties except for nonpartisan offices and votes on ballot measures. Current Oregon law also makes it very difficult for independent candidates to run because of very difficult signature-gathering requirements when a simple filing fee suffices for Democrats and Republicans.

I cast my first vote in an Oregon election 40 years ago and participated in my first campaigns in that year as a college student as well. I called on voters for Robert Kennedy for president, for Betty Roberts for the state Senate and Keith Skelton for the Oregon House of Representatives.

From 1971 to 1977, I served on elections committees in the Oregon House and chaired them in 1973 and 1975. The open primary idea that is Measure 65 first surfaced in 1975, and the problems that it sought to address then only have gotten worse. I might note that two members of that elections committee, former Secretary of State Norma Paulus (Republican) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Democrat) continue to support Measure 65 today.

What are the problems that Measure 65 seeks to address?

  • More and more Oregonians are not registering as Democrats and Republicans. They now number more than 480,000 (or 25 percent of the electorate).
  • Participation in primary elections continues to decline and the median age of primary election participants is nearly 60 years of age.
  • Political parties are failing to recruit good candidates for important state and local partisan offices. This year, for example, there is no Republican candidate for attorney general. Over half of the state Senate seats up for election only have one candidate.

Seventeen of the 60 contests for state representative are uncontested.

Primary elections are the key elections because they are designed to produce two quality persons for voters to consider as potential lawmakers and local officials. I believe the best way to do that is to allow anyone to be a candidate and everyone to participate in primary elections. Under the present system, voters have fewer and fewer good people to choose from when they cast their votes and more often than not, these candidates represent the extremes of their party and not the great practical middle of the political spectrum.

In the Oct. 13 article, former secretary of state and governor Barbara Roberts is quoted as saying Measure 65 is a "solution looking for a problem." Former governors John Kitzhaber and Vic Atiyeh, both practical problem-solvers, don't agree. I'm with them. I urge Oregon voters to join me in voting for Measure 65.

Medford City Councilman Al Densmore was a state representative from 1971-1977 and mayor of Medford from 1977 to 1983.

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