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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Party on

I guess I'm having another one of my spells and missing something. I keep hearing talk about having a nonpartisan legislature here in Oregon -- the Stennies all seem to be taking a break from their urban affairs term papers at PSU to drool over the idea -- but it seems to me the real politics are headed 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

The 2005 legislature struck two gigantic blows for partisanship in elections acrioss the state. First there was the new law that major party members can't sign petitions for independent candidates if they vote for anyone -- even candidates in nonpartisan races -- in the primary. Take that, Naderites and Westlund! And then they repealed the law that said that candidates for nonpartisan offices couldn't highlight their party affiliations in their campaign literature.

And in this climate, we're going to switch to a nonpartisan legislature? Come on. Nobody in Salem is in the mood for this. Moreover, even if it passed, it wouldn't mean much, now that candidates for nonpartisan office can paint themselves as blue or red or green as they like.

Comments (12)

Hey! I'm in Salem, and I'm in the mood for it! Of course, I am a nobody...

What would be the point? Why would removing partisan politics from the mix render a better government? What in the operation of the Portland City Council or the Multnomah County Commission, to name two nonpartisan governmental bodies, demonstrates that nonpartisan is superior to partisan?

This is something I have been interested in, and a few of us were talking about. Having seen enough growing up working on campaigns in high school and college, including boot camps for both parties R & D, to sour me on party politics I been a registered independent since I moved to the West Coast many moons ago, I have not been able to vote in the primaries, except for a brief period in Washington State when they did let Independents vote. I can understand the arguments about people switching parties just to get the opponent they want to run against thier candidate and other misguided reasons to vote in the primary of both partisans and non-partisains.

I think the key to making something like this work is going back to consistancy, for someone like me that has been registered as an I for 20+ years, I think it would be helpful now that there are so many I's around to help bring the left and right back to the common sense middle of the road rather than the flaky fringes. If you are consistently registered as an I for a year or more, then we should have a ballot that lets us vote for any candidate in the primary. This would still let the R's and D's put up the names for nomination as well as allow the Westlunds to gather signatures, and the write-ins. It would have been interesting to have been able to write in Westlind on the ballot and see if he got the 18,000 write ins he would need to qualify. Would have been simpler than petition gathering, and less costly for the candidate and the public paying for verification of the petitions.

I actually think we need MORE parties, not less. Voters don't need less information about who they're voting for.

Personally, I think we oughta support the efforts toward fusion voting. It used to be legal in Oregon, and it will be again soon. Note that a fusion bill passed the House last time, but was killed in the Senate -- at the behest of the fusion advocates with the Working Families Party.

Once the WFP qualifies this summer, expect to see fusion sail on through the legislature next spring.

More parties, not less. Once we have a Working Families Party, a Right to Life party, a stronger Green party, a Taxpayers' party, etc. the voters will have more information AND will be able to vote the issue set they want along with the candidate they favor.

I think "nonpartisan" is newspeak for Democratic Party.

Ex. A.: Portland
Ex. B.: Mulnomah County

GW is right.
The ratio of support for this dopey idea runs
about 90/10 D/R
Much as I'm troubled by agreeing with KC, he's "right" on this one.

I had a conversation about this issue with Senator Charlie Ringo several months ago, and he expressed a great deal of frustration surrounding the inability to get anything done down in Salem when the legislature was in session. Part of the motivation behind ending political party affiliation in the legislature is to curtail block voting along party lines on bills merely because they are sponsored by a member of the opposition party. Typically what occurs is a lawmaker has a good idea for a bill, and he or she attempts to drum up support for it from the opposition party. Many bills really have no identifiable political ideology behind them, they are just good ideas that should be enacted into law. Sen. Ringo told me that many times he would get the assurance of support of an opposition party member on a bill, only to have that same person come back a day or two later and tell him that they couldn't vote for the bill because the party boss said they couldn't. It is also unfortunate how much control special interest money has down in Salem. Eliminating party affiliation would help reduce the exponential effect special interest money has on legislature because it much easier to focus lobbying efforts on a few party leaders than it is on dozens of free agent individual legislators who have allegiance to no one other than their constituency. I for one doubt that eliminating parties is a complete panacea to all that ills the Oregon Legislature, but it is a step in the right direction. Having a bunch of minority parties that identify with specific pet issues as proposed by KC reminds me of Italy. Don't get me wrong I admire the Italians, but it isn't for their reputation for having incorruptible and stable governmental institutions.


Actually having more than two parties is pretty much the standard in every democracy except the US

Who said we only have two parties? We have a veritable cornucopia of political parties. It's just that at the present time the Rs and the Ds are the main two parties. That could change.

I'm ambivalent about a non-partisan legislature. Partisanship is one of the biggest problems with the legislature. On the other hand, I don't think we should be deciding MORE races in May. I might support the change if the top two finishers proceeded to November, no matter the percentages. Under our current system, in this past election 50% of 35% selected our non-partisan representatives. That, I don't think, is healthy.

One thing that I never understood about Oregon's legislature is why the Speaker makes all the committee assignments, including those of the opposing party. That makes absolutely no sense. It gives far too much power to one person and weakens the opposing party.

I think keeping partisan representatives, while significantly weakening the leadership would accomplish many of the same goals without pursuing such a radical untested change.

I honestly don't see how fusion voting would help anything either. New York's legislature is hardly worth trying to emulate.

Eric: Having more than two parties is pretty much the standard in every democracy except the US.

The reason for this is that, except for the UK and the US, almost every other democracy has enabled progressive voting for the national legislative body, and a prime minister elected out of that legislature.

Correction: The UK doesn't have progressive voting but does have a prime minister elected from their MP's. The US has neither, of course.

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