Monday, April 11, 2011

Independent Party of Oregon Fights for Legality



OREGON – APR 11, 2011 -- On Wednesday of this week, the House Rules Committee of the Oregon legislature will consider a bill to abolish the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO).

The bill bans using the word "independent" in the name of any political party, thus forcing the Independent Party to change its name by the end of the year or be disbanded.  


“The free speech and free association implications of this bill are stunning, particularly when you consider that no legislator has listed their name as a sponsor,” said Party Chair, Linda Williams. “This as a transparent partisan attempt by a handful of legislators to strangle the Independent Party of Oregon in its infancy."

( Link to bill: http://www.leg.state.or.us/11reg/measpdf/hb2400.dir/hb2442.intro.pdf )

The Independent Party of Oregon was formed in response to legislation that removed the word “independent” from the ballot and made it more difficult to run for public office as a non-affiliated candidate.  

The Independent Party has worked to bring some gravity back to the public interest center, and to cobble together a coalition of legislators who are willing to provide our members with a greater voice in the Oregon legislature.  In 2010, the IPO became the first Oregon political party in more than 100 years to hold a primary election at our own expense.  Our election was the largest nominating process ever held by an Oregon minor political party.

The Independent Party is not the first political party in Oregon to use the word “Independent” in its name.  Ross Perot formed the Independent Initiative Party to gain ballot access in Oregon (later changed to the American Party), and the American Independent Party existed here from 1964 until it reformed as the Constitution Party in 2000.

“I have been involved in politics for most of my adult life, and it has never once occurred to me that an American state or the federal government might ever consider disbanding a duly constituted political party that is meeting all of its statutory obligations and requirements,” said Sal Peralta, the Party’s Secretary    “Shouldn't our legislators be focused on working together to get Oregon unstuck rather than figuring out how to destroy a potential rival?"

This email provides some additional information in support of IPO position, including:
  • A link to our member responses to a petition we sent on Saturday that asks legislators to oppose this step.
  • Some history on instances where lawfully organized political parties have been banned.
  • Other political parties that use the word “independent”.
  • Some additional history and press background.
WHAT DO INDEPENDENT PARTY MEMBERS THINK ABOUT THIS BILL?
On Saturday, April 9th, we sent a petition via email to several hundred of our members asking them to oppose this legislation and to forward it on to others.  Here is a small sample of the responses:

"To those that have taken an oath to uphold the rights of Oregonians and to respect the ideas of fairness and transparency in Oregon Governance. We are in a period of polarization that has crippled our state and our nation. I urge all of you to not only allow the Independent Party of Oregon to continue, but also any other legitimate group that seeks a voice in Oregon Politics. Sincerely, Jim Wright" (Former Mayor of Damascus, Oregon)

"What are the major parties afraid of?" Fred McCord, Eugene
See the petition and all responses here:

http://www.indparty.com/survey/responses5.php

ADDITIONAL NOTES
IS THE HB 2442 CONSTITUTIONAL?

In 2002, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that an Oregon statute forbidding the formation of the Freedom-Socialist Party because it's name used the word "socialist" was facially unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution in Freedom Socialist v Bradbury.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Landau, who now sits on the Oregon Supreme Court, reasoned that the ban would have failed under the Oregon Constitution for the following reasons:

"Article I, section 8, provides that

"'No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.'

"Under State v. Robertson, 293 Or 402, 412, 649 P2d 569 (1982), and its progeny, a law that restrains speech based on the content of that speech is unconstitutional unless the restraint is wholly contained within a historical exception.

"In this case, it strikes me that the statute runs headlong into the free expression guarantee of Article I, section 8. A political party name communicates a message to voters. Its name, in fact, is a shorthand expression for a core value that the party wishes to communicate to the public. It certainly is speech, and a regulation that prohibits a party from using certain words to express that message certainly is a regulation based on the content of speech. The parties have identified no historical exception that wholly contains such a restraint, and I am aware of none. It necessarily follows that the restraint is unconstitutional."
http://law.justia.com/cases/oregon/court-of-appeals/2002/a113583.html


Here are some recent examples where a government has forcibly disbanded a political party.

2011 –  GABON:  National Union Party forcibly disbanded after losing 2009 election.
2010 – MYANMAR: Myanmar Government disbanded 10 political parties including main opposition party, NLD.
2010 – IRAN:  Iranian Supreme Court disbanded 2 leading opposition parties, IIPF and IRMO.
2007 -- THAILAND:  Thailand's 4 leading opposition parties were disbanded by the Thai Constitution Court. 

OTHER HISTORICAL EXAMPLES


1953 - 1973 – EGYPT:  Government dissolved all opposition parties in favor of one-party rule.

July 14, 1933 – GERMANY:  On July 14, 1933, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party officially declared itself the only political party in Germany and outlawed the formation of any other parties.

WHAT OTHER STATES HAVE POLITICAL PARTIES THAT USE THE WORD “INDEPENDENT” IN THEIR NAMES?
 

Note:  The Independent Party of Oregon is not affiliated with any other state or national political party.
Independent Party:  New Mexico, Florida, Delaware, Masschussetts, Texas, Connecticut
Independent American Party:  California, Missouri, Nevada, Alaska, Utah, Massachussetts, Arkansas
Green Independent Party:  Maine
Independent Democrats:  Florida

HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT PARTY OF OREGON
 
The Independent Party of Oregon was formed in response to legislation that made it more difficult for non-affiliated candidates to run for public office in Oregon and which removed the word “independent” to describe those candidates on the ballot.


The party’s original mission was to protect the rights of Independent and non-affiliated voters and candidates and minor political parties.  In 2008, the party nominated several candidates, becoming the first Oregon minor political party in nearly a century to cross-nominate major party candidates including US Senator Jeff Merkley, former State Treasurer, Ben Westlund, and State Representative Vicki Berger..  The party sued to have its name printed on the ballot line of its cross-nominated candidates.  The lawsuit was settled when the 2009 legislature passed legislation expanding Oregon’s fusion voting law to allow up the names of up to three political parties to be listed on the candidate’s ballot line.

That year, the party broadened its agenda to include reducing special-interest influence over the legislative process; increasing citizen participation in government; and increasing government transparency. 

In 2010, the Independent Party became the first Oregon political party to conduct a binding primary election at its own expense in more than 100 years.  The election included 77 candidates from across the political spectrum.  The party’s nominees include the current Governor and 30 of Oregon's 90 sitting legislators, many of whom prominently displayed their Independent Party nomination in communications during the General Election.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Party_of_Oregon


PRESS BACKGROUNDER


Independent Party Growing Fast in Oregon - OPB
http://news.opb.org/article/independent-party-growing-fast-oregon/


Lots of Legislative Candidates want Independent Party Nomination - Oregonian
http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/06/lots_of_legislative_candidates.html


Independents: The third way - Democrat-Herald
http://www.democratherald.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_3c9c4138-7264-11df-9519-001cc4c002e0.html


Independent Party Gaining Clout
http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100612/OPINION/6120304/-1/NEWSMAP


Candidates Woo Independent Party - News-Times
http://www.forestgrovenewstimes.com/news/story.php?story_id=127909331821056200


Voting Kicks off in Independent Party Primary - OPB
http://news.opb.org/article/voting-kicks-independent-partys-online-primary/


Kitzhaber Wins Independent Party Primary Nod - AP
http://www.katu.com/news/local/99681579.html


Independent voters leave their mark in Oregon - Ashland Daily Tidings
http://www.dailytidings.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101108/NEWS02/11080308/-1/NEWSMAP
----
Press Contact:
CONTACT

Sal Peralta                                   503-437-2833
Independent Party Secretary     sal@salperalta.com


Linda Williams                             503-293-0399
Independent Party Chair             linda@lindawilliams.net

Independent Party of Oregon
9220 SW Barbur Blvd
Suite 119-254
Portland, OR 97219
fax 866-795-9415

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