At least one potential ballot issue for the 2024 general election has already kicked off its campaign: a constitutional amendment to alter the 2026 primary election in the state. In my inbox, I found the campaign’s first salvo, a message from All Oregon Votes.
Veterans for Political Innovation and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson were among the prominent figures who supported “Big Endorsements for All Oregon Votes!” “Damn near half of the state’s voters are independents,” Johnson said.
They must be given the same rights as everyone else in our democratic system. The website for the campaign displays a startling fact prominently. Only 12.3% of all voters cast ballots in the primary election held last year for governor between the Democratic incumbent Tina Kotek and the Republican challenger Christine Drazan.
Several other candidates in the party primary received more votes overall, although only roughly 30% of voters cast ballots in the election. Most eligible voters did not identify with either major political party.
Oregon boasts some of the most accessible voting procedures in the nation because of its vote-by-mail and almost automated voter registration systems. However, only a small number of states restricted primary voting to registered Democrats in Democratic primaries and registered Republicans in Republican primaries.
All candidates, “regardless of whether the candidate is or is not affiliated with a political party,” would be eligible to stand on the ballot under the proposed Petition 2024-16 for all state and federal seats except the president and vice president.
All voters, regardless of affiliation, would be free to choose a single candidate for each post. This would include supporting a Democrat for governor, a Republican for the U.S. House, and a third-party candidate for the state legislature in the primary election.
This strategy isn’t wholly original. Each major party (with a candidate presenting in the primary) might have its top primary vote-getter represent it on the November ballot, as was the case under a similar system in operation in Washington state. The Supreme Court of the United States has stopped such a system.
The concept of altering this cycle has been discussed before. In 2021, a similar plan was submitted for the next election, but it was defeated and never made it to the ballot. Neither major party in Oregon has made any moves to open up the state’s closed primaries, which have been in place for decades.
Will voters support this concept in the next year?
With Betsy Johnson’s support and early backing from influential groups, the petition has a fighting chance of passing the required number of signatures when it goes to the ballot next summer. Neither major party has shown any enthusiasm for holding open primaries.
If they did, they could find relief from an issue bothering them now: the pressure to win over the far fringes, rather than the moderates, of their respective political parties.
Even though Johnson came in a distant third in last year’s gubernatorial election, her message about the absence of appeals to the middle resonated with many voters. In addition, Oregon has an increasing share of voters who do not identify with either major political party.
According to All Oregon Votes, although slightly more than a third of voters in the state register as Democrats and somewhat less than a quarter register as Republicans, 41.7% register as something else and hence do not participate in the crucial phase of picking party candidates. And that fraction keeps rising.
This issue has sparked heated discussion in several states. For decades, Idaho has allowed all primary voters to choose a ballot from any political party. The state Republican Party determined in 2010 that only registered Republicans may participate in the party’s primary election.
The most recent information on what’s occurring at Oregon State:
- Jurassic Park in Oregon: Discovering Dinosaurs of the Past.
- Oregon Democrats Petition Appeals Court to Protect Mifepristone Supply.
A federal court ruled the following year that the party could legally enforce this restriction. Republican activists have been vocal about dispelling this law since it was implemented, claiming that Democrats and independents are registering as Republicans to sway the party’s immediate results. (Vote tallies have shown that such crossovers occur, but seldom.)
The definition of a major political party is a contentious issue in these discussions, with some arguing that parties are nothing more than loose conglomerations of voters.
In contrast, others see them as semi-public, albeit nominally private, organizations that wield the levers of representative democracy. The topic of how effectively the two main parties represent the majority of Oregon voters may also be brought up.
The stars could align for a decision on that if All Oregon Votes and its supporters make a stronger argument this election cycle than they did the previous.