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MailTribune.com
  • Why voters should approve the open primary

  • Come Election Day this November, Oregonians will have an opportunity to increase participation in elections, reduce government gridlock and give themselves better choices when they vote.
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  • Come Election Day this November, Oregonians will have an opportunity to increase participation in elections, reduce government gridlock and give themselves better choices when they vote.
    Today, more than 667,000 registered voters in Oregon are locked out of primary elections for partisan offices. Only those registered with a major party — that's Democrats and Republicans — can vote in these elections. And these are primary elections that are paid for by all taxpayers. Members of minority parties as well as independents can forget it.
    That's not all. Today, most legislative districts in Oregon are heavily dominated by one of the major parties: Democrats in the cities, Republicans in rural areas.
    A recent analysis showed that less than 10 percent of the races in the Oregon Legislature in 2014 are truly a toss-up. In most other districts, the elections are effectively over when the primary is over.
    Whether you are a Democrat living in rural Oregon or a Republican living in inner Portland, you can vote, but your vote won't change a thing. Because of that, you have nearly 350,000 Oregon voters whose votes don't really count in partisan primary elections.
    Put that number together with the 667,000 listed previously and you have a million voters disenfranchised. That's almost half the registered voters in the state!
    When half of the voters can't choose who represents them, that's not democracy. It's a systemic failure.
    And it leads to bad results. Instead of reaching out to all voters in their districts, candidates pledge allegiance to special-interest groups that fund partisan primary elections. In some cases, because elections are decided in low-turnout primaries, candidates can win their races with support from as little as 7 percent of the total voters in a district.
    The open primary will change all this. All voters will be able to vote in the primary on the same unified ballot, and the two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election, regardless of party.
    In districts that are strongly conservative or liberal, the open primary will sometimes result in two Republicans or two Democrats running against each other. This is not a bad thing! The Republican or Democrat who best represents all the voters in the district will be favored to win.
    With an open primary, those elected will be better able to reach across the aisle and work together to solve the problems facing our state and nation. Let's reduce the partisan gridlock. Give yourself more choice. Choose the open primary.
    Pete Kratz of Medford is past chairman of the board for the Oregon Business Association.
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