Closing system

Editorial: Oregonians’ solution to closed primaries


The fact that Democratic Senator Betsy Johnson would rather run for governor as an unaffiliated candidate rather than seek the nomination of her own party should make one thing clear: our closed primary system, which blocks more than a third of the Oregon voters who do not identify as Democrats or Republicans, help keep moderate candidates out of state office.

Party loyalists might not see this as a problem. Limiting the primaries to those who intentionally register as a Democrat or Republican rewards those who best embody the party platform that attracted voters in the first place. But aside from specific candidates – it’s far too early to assess Johnson’s candidacy – Oregonians who want more on the November ballot than far-left or far-right candidates know the need for change couldn’t. not be clearer. While Washington, California and other states have adopted primary systems that favor the best voters regardless of party, Oregon remains dedicated to a relic.

It’s not just that the most partisan candidates often win the nomination, bouncing contestants with broader overall appeal from the poll, as reflected in the Democratic Secretary of State’s last two races. Our closed primaries also highlight the hypocrisy of the state. Oregon rightly boasts of its “Motorized Voters” program, which automatically registers driver’s license applicants as unaffiliated voters if they are eligible but not yet registered to vote. But unless those voters proactively change their registration, they can’t participate in the taxpayer-funded primaries that determine the top two contenders for governor and other statewide offices. In total, Oregon’s 991,000 unaffiliated voters – more than the 730,000 registered Republicans and almost as many as the state’s one million registered Democrats – have no say in representation across the board. state before November.

The state’s Democratic and Republican parties could voluntarily open their primaries to unaffiliated voters. In fact, the state’s GOP did so in 2012, and Oregon Democrats considered – but ultimately rejected – the idea in 2020. However, neither party has so far. expressed interest in 2022. They have until mid-February to notify the Oregon Secretary of State. office if they intend to.

Even that is not an ideal solution, however, given that the system still places a burden on voters. If one or both parties opened their primary, unaffiliated voters should proactively apply for that ballot at the county election office.

Unaffiliated voters shouldn’t wait for parties to take action and take control themselves by changing their registration to Democrat or Republican before the primary. Those with a driver’s license or state ID can do so online by visiting the Oregon Secretary of State website at https: // sos .oregon.gov / voting / Pages / updatevoterregistration.aspx and following the instructions. It’s a remarkably quick and easy process, living up to Oregon’s reputation as a champion of voter access. Residents of Oregon can also mail in changes by submitting a voter registration form, available at post offices, libraries, or county election offices. Oregonians should submit the changes as long as possible before the primary so they can send them the correct ballot next spring. The ballots will be mailed the last week of April.

The gubernatorial race with the candidacy of House Speaker Tina Kotek, Johnson’s unaffiliated leadership, the expected entry of former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the repeated offer of Republican physician Bud Pierce and the campaigns of many others are guaranteed to be exciting. a. Oregonians should be a part of it every step of the way.

-The Oregonian / OregonLive Editorial Board

Oregon Editorials

The editorials reflect the collective opinion of The Oregonian / OregonLive editorial board, which operates independently of the newsroom. Members of the Editorial Board are Therese Bottomly, Laura Gunderson, Helen Jung and John Maher.

Board members meet regularly to determine our institutional position on current issues. We publish editorials when we believe our unique perspective can provide clarity and influence an upcoming decision of great public interest. Editorials are opinion pieces and therefore different from press articles.

If you have any questions about the Opinion Section, email Opinion Writer Helen Jung or call 503-294-7621.


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