Measure 65 seriously undemocratic; Vote no

This year we face many statewide ballot measures. Most of those have already been fully discussed in public and will get a lot more press. One may not. Hence this explanation and voting suggestion.

Measure 65 looks like a great idea: get everyone voting on one slate in the primary and then let everyone vote on the top two candidates in November. But Republican and Democratic Parties and most of the minor parties oppose it. The party leaders understand the undemocratic things that can happen with a bad election law. Here are a few examples of seriously undemocratic outcomes that will result under Measure 65:

Measure 65 promotes manipulation in the primary. Voters in safe Republican districts or safe Democratic districts might face a choice in the General Election with no member of the dominant party. Persuade enough members of the dominant party to run in the primary, split the primary vote, and two non-dominant party members running could win. Voters could only choose from those two in the general election. This reality opens the opportunity to manipulation by insiders and big-money-players who will try to set up chances to steal an office.

This and similar scams are why Louisiana recently limited its use of this type of primary. Louisiana once faced a choice between a racist and a crook in the general election for governor because the moderate and honest candidates split the centrist vote in the low-turnout primary.

Another problem will happen in unexpected and grossly unfair ways. Let us suppose that a popular Democratic legislator in a Democratic district “wins” the primary and the two Republican candidates get the second and third most votes so that the Democratic incumbent moves on to the general election along with one of the Republicans. Now suppose, as has happened many times, that the popular incumbent dies in office, moves or resigns.

Under our current law, the precinct committee persons (PCP) from the Democratic Party in the district get together and nominate a replacement. Voters can vote for someone who is likely to be in general agreement on the big issues of the day, the candidate nominated in the PCP convention. How does Measure 65 handle that example? The candidate with the third most votes moves up! Now the election is between the two Republican candidates without a Democrat! How fair and “open” would that appear to the Democrats in the district? In the opposite case, how would Republicans feel about an election in which, by chance, only Democrats names appeared on their ballot? The majority will not be represented.

What about the possibilities between elections? Representatives and Senators do resign mid-term for a host of reasons. This year, the newly appointed labor commissioner, Brad Avakian, resigned his senate seat and was replaced by Representative Bonamici who was in turn replaced by Chris Harker, all moderate to liberal Democrats as are the majority of voters in their districts. Under the current law, the county commissioners in the affected district choose a new legislator from a list of three to five nominees provided by that PCP nomination.

The nominees must be from the same party as the legislator being replaced, increasing the likelihood that the replacement will agree on the big issues with the elected legislator.

Under Measure 65 county commissioners would appoint regardless of party affiliation. Republican legislators from East Multnomah County might be replaced by Democrats should they leave mid-term, and Democratic legislators in other parts of the state might be replaced by Republicans.

If it occurred during a legislative session the majority party may change, the speaker or senate president might be replaced and committees reconstituted, disrupting the work of the legislature and lengthening the session.

Measure 65 has other flaws and problems. The current laws have been amended and improved over time. While they are not perfect, they prevent the “accidents” I have described here.

Our two party system is not perfect, but it is the way we bring our policy differences into the open. Measure 65 not only obscures those differences, but more often than we might think, will lead to results with which a majority of voters in a district will strongly disagree.

Vote NO on Measure 65.

Phil Barnhart represents portions of central Lane and Linn Counties in the Oregon House of Representatives and can be found at 541-607-9207 or [email protected].