It's been tough for me to decide how to vote on Measure 90, Oregon's "Open Primary" or "Top Two" initiative. I've gone back and forth between Yes and No.
I'm now a No, having given Measure 90 more thought for a few days after writing Torn about the Open Primary measure in Oregon, I lean toward "Yes."
It would open primary elections to all voters, including those unaffiliated with a political party, sending the top two candidates on to the general election.
I like the idea of lessening the influence of the Democratic and Republican parties in Oregon. Why should 650,000 unaffiliated voters be left out of partisan primaries, since in the November general election almost always the only real choice is between a "D" and a "R"?
But after reading the Voter's Pamphlet arguments and a couple of opinion pieces by attorney/voting rights advocate Blair Bobier, I've decided that the downside of Measure 90 outweighs the upside.
Bobier did a good job of summarizing my current sentiments in "Top Two is a Failure; Oregonians Deserve Better" and "Measure 90 is Dangerous and Deceptive." These were originally published in the Oregonian and Eugene Weekly.
Here Bobier hits on my main reasons for voting No on Measure 90. I've added emphasis to the parts I like most:
...Limiting choices to just two in our most critical election is offensive to democratic ideals. Most civilized nations offer their citizens a veritable menu of choices on Election Day. Yet Top Two limits us to only two choices; one “choice” away from those afforded to you in China or Cuba.
This fits with the intuition I had after watching two "third party" candidates debate the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 5th District Congressional Representative at a Salem City Club meeting.
Like I said in my previous blog post about Measure 90:
I took this photo from my close-in seat. Marvin Sannes of the Independent Party is standing at the podium. Seated left to right are Republican Tootie Smith, Democrat Kurt Schrader, the moderator, and Constitution Party candidate Raymond Baldwin.
After the debate I went up to Baldwin and told him, "You and Sannes have convinced me to vote no on the Top Two primary measure, because you guys were so entertaining and different. It would have been boring to have just Schrader and Smith debating today."
Well, after being convinced to vote No, I leaned toward voting Yes, and now I'm back to No. Aside from the lack of minority party candidates in the general election with a Top Two system, I also became bothered by a few other things about Measure 90.
Here's one of them.
In nonpartisan races, such as city council elections, seemingly Measure 90 would still allow the current "50 percent plus 1" rule. Meaning, if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary election, he or she becomes the winner and is the only person on the ballot in the general election.
How is this a "Top Two" system?
On the sample general election ballot for Salem City Council, there is only one candidate listed for each ward, because each got more than 50 percent in the primary. So the few people who voted in the May primary got to choose four members of the City Council, not the many more people who will vote in the November general election.
That's screwy. Apparently, from reading Voter's Pamphlet arguments, Measure 90 will continue the screwiness.
What first drew me to like Measure 90 was that it is an attempt to fix our broken election system. Nobody else is seriously attempting this in Oregon, including the Democratic and Republican parties -- both of which oppose Measure 90, yet to my knowledge haven't suggested any alternative fixes.
So at first I figured that if Measure 90 was disliked by both major parties, I should like it. However, it then dawned on me that Measure 90 also appeared to be disliked by most of the minor political parties in Oregon.
And this bothered me.
If Measure 90 passes, Oregon won't ever get a story in the New York Times like the one that ran two days ago, "Senate Contest in South Dakota is a Free-for-All."
One candidate will recite cowboy poetry on Wednesday at a Sioux Falls restaurant. A second thundered against his party as know-nothings who didn’t understand his state. A third until recently had been spurned by his would-be allies and donors, and a fourth runs African safaris in his spare time while railing against the size of the federal government.
In an era of homogenized, data-driven campaigns, a quirky and unpredictable contest has emerged in South Dakota, confounding operatives and experts and potentially deciding who controls the United States Senate after the midterm elections.
A race that most had thought was safely Republican is suddenly the focus of national attention, thanks to the surprisingly successful candidacy of former Senator Larry Pressler, a Republican who is running as an independent. Mr. Pressler, who will do the poetry reading, has a staff of one and a small budget, but has a longstanding connection to South Dakota voters.
I like quirky. I like unpredictable. I like bizarre third party candidates.
So I'm voting No on Measure 90. Much needs to be fixed with Oregon's election system. I just have decided that Measure 90 isn't a good way to repair what's broken.