Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oregon: Open Primary gets citizen panel endorsement

Editorial Blog From readers and the Statesman Journal Editorial Board May 10, 2006 -- Here’s what the Corvallis Gazette-Times had to say last week:

***Open primary would energize voters
Except for a few lawn signs, very little indicates that a primary election is less than two weeks away. That all would change if the proponents of open primaries, in which voters select whichever candidate they wish, regardless of whether the letter in front of that candidate's name is R, D or - increasingly - I.
For it is the ranks of the independent voters that are swelling, according to elections officials across the state. Turnout in primaries also is small, as people decide not to participate when they already know their party's candidate is running unopposed.
In the 2004 primary election, the voter turnout was 54 percent Democrat and 52 percent Republican, with only 26 percent of the independent (non-affiliated, in election-speak) voters turning out. For the general presidential election in November, 79 percent of the independent voters turned out along with the 90 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of the Democrats.
Evidence that voters and politicians alike are sick of the partisan bickering that paralyzed the 2003 and 2005 legislative sessions recently includes some high-profile party leave-takings.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Ben Westlund of Bend (a plain-spoken, clear-thinking fella whose ideas are worth checking out, by the way) left the Republican party to run as an independent. He said that his own party's tendency to cow-tow to its far right wing drove him away.
Democratic state Sen. Charlie Ringo, who tried unsuccessfully to sell the public on having a nonpartisan legislature, has decided not to seek re-election. He has said both publicly and privately to anyone who will listen that the wasted energy devoted to toeing the party line quashed meaningful action on more than one occasion, to the detriment of the electorate.
Former secretaries of state Norma Paulus and Phil Keisling, a Republican and a Democrat, veterans of 17 years in that office between them, are close to victory in gathering the needed signatures to make the 2008 primary open, so that voters could cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice regardless of how closely he walks their party's plank.
We think that the partisan shouting is a lot of overheated sizzle that obscures a lack of meaningful steak when voters are hungry for change in health care, energy policy, tax reform and education.
Open primaries would encourage innovation and put the emphasis back on a candidate's personal qualifications rather than his or her adherence to a pre-scripted party "core message."
It won't make our Democratic or Republican party leaders happy to hear this, but we're ready for some new voices.
We do have one objection to this open primary plan: It contains the provision that only the top two winners from each primary race go on to the general election. That's unfair to third-party candidates, and needs further refinement.
In 24 days, the Oregon Open Primary Campaign has to submit 80,000 signatures to the secretary of state to get this measure on ballot, and supporters are about 30,000 signatures shy.
Those who support breaking the partisan stranglehold should read the open primary Web site at
www.OneBallot.com to see how we can elect leaders more willing to pull together on Oregon's behalf.
Posted by Dick Hughes
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Citizen panel backs open primaries System pits top two candidates in vote, regardless of party

PETER WONGStatesman JournalMay 10, 2006 -- A citizen panel voted Tuesday to endorse an open primary election, which would reshape how voters elect candidates for legislative seats and other offices in general elections.
The recommendation from the process committee will go to the full Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, which is expected to discuss it at its next meeting May 22....... pwong@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6745 more

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