14 Oct

Oregon primaries should stop being an exclusive club

For most Oregon elections, the November vote is a formality. Since no Republicans will be elected in Northeast Portland, and no Democrats should plan to go to the Legislature from Northeast Oregon, the election ends with the primary in May.

Which would be fine, except we don’t let a lot of people vote in our primaries.

Oregon is one of only a dozen states with closed primaries, allowing only registered party members to vote in their party’s primary. That was one thing 50 years ago, when 98 percent of Oregon voters were registered as either Democrats or Republicans. Now the number is closer to 70 percent, and dropping every two years.

Young people who don’t want to register with a party should not be deprived of any voice in their
representation, and discouraged from voting at all.

The system could also be opened up by letting everybody, or at least unaffiliated voters, vote in primaries. But the Democratic and Republican parties are against that, just like they’re against Measure 90 and the top-two primary. But Measure 90 could make the November choice mean something, even if it’s a choice between two Republicans or two Democrats.

It’s awkward enough being Republican in Portland. They shouldn’t be entirely excluded from meaningful voting.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 10/11/14.

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