A glimpse into the reality of our elections
Measure 90, the Open Primary, changes the primary election system so that all voters use one identical ballot in the March primary and the top-two vote getters go on to face each other in the general election. Voting yes on Measure 90 puts voters first, and makes the votes of 680,000 independent, non-affiliated and minor party voters who are now locked out count.
The number of independent-minded voters in Oregon is growing. According to the secretary of state, between May and September over 74 percent of newly registered voters chose not to register with either of the two major parties. And most legislative districts (over 90 percent, according to media accounts) are so dominated by one major party or the other that elections are effectively over with the result of primary.
The dominant party candidate picked in the primary by voters, many times less than 10 percent of the electorate, is all but guaranteed to win the general election. Often, no candidate from the other party even bothers to run at all.
It is no surprise that people are looking for an alternative to special-interest agendas that are working for them.
The political establishment cries that Measure 90 will limit choice. This is the "choice" they want to preserve: a general election race that pits one Democrat against a Republican (no non-major party candidate has won a legislative seat in 40 years). Ninety percent of the time it is a meaningless “choice.”
Think how many Republicans are elected to represent Southeast Portland today, or how many Democrats get elected to represent Grant County. Zero. No wonder so many voters don’t even bother to show up. And the minor party candidates that opponents raise don’t exist either — the Progressive Party have endorsed no candidates for any statehouse races and the Pacific Green Party has only 3 candidates in these 91 races.
Democracy works better when candidates have to appeal to all the voters and when all the voters are able to choose among the two candidates who got the most votes in the primary. It’s time for people — for voters — to make everyone’s votes count.
Margaret Carter of Portland is a retired Oregon state senator and president pro-tempore, a former Portland Urban League president and former chairwoman of the Oregon Democratic Party. Jim Kelly of Kimberly is the chief petitioner for Measure 90.