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Should Oregonians Pass Measure 90 And Change Our Election System?

Meeting Date: September 5th, 2014

Air Date: September 8th, 2014

A successful petition drive has placed the Open Primary/Top Two election system on Oregon’s November ballot. The statutory measure will be listed on the ballot as “Changes general election nomination processes: provides for single primary ballot listing candidates; top two advance.”

If approved by the voters, political parties would no longer have individual primaries to choose their candidates. Oregon would have essentially the same system now used in Washington and California. In those states, a single primary ballot allows voters to choose among all candidates for each office. Voters would cast one vote for their favorite candidate, regardless of party affiliation. The two candidates with the most votes would face off in the fall general election.

Supporters of Measure 90 say it will give non-affiliated voters the chance to express their views early in the election season, when the November ballot choices are narrowed down. No-party voters constitute nearly one-fourth of Oregon’s electorate and are excluded from participating the party primaries. Measure 90’s supporters also say that a single “blanket primary” avoids the polarized climate often found in major party primaries. In that way, it might improve the odds that moderate, middle-of-road candidates can advance to the general election.

Opponents of Measure 90 say the Top Two system has failed to increase voter participation in both California and Washington’s primaries. They claim that those primary voters who narrow the field will still be an ideologically committed sector that is only a small part of the total electorate. Although the winners of the fall election will take office with majority support, opponents note that the Top Two are selected by plurality, which could encourage back-room manipulation of the choices available in the primary.

Minor political parties fall on both sides; some oppose the measure while others support it. In Oregon, some parties primarily promote their own members as candidates. Because those minor-party candidates would be unlikely to appear on the November ballot under the Top Two system, those parties oppose the measure. Other minor parties focus on endorsing —“cross nominating”— major-party candidates they agree with; those parties support Measure 90.

The City Club will hear a lively discussion by representatives of the principal organizations both for and against the measure. Joining those opposing the measure will be State Representative Phil Barnhart; with those supporting it will be the Secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon, Sal Peralta. 

Jeremy Rogers is representing the Vote Yes on 90 Campaign.  He is Vice-President of the Oregon Business Council based in Portland, and manager of its Oregon Business Plan.  

Sarah Logue is spokeswoman for the No on 90 Campaign based in Portland. She has worked as an educator and organizer for the Oregon Education Association.

copyright, 2014 KLCC