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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 14, 2007 4:24 PM. The previous post in this blog was Traveler's aid. The next post in this blog is The dirt on Rudy G.. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

While you're up

I see that the girls and boys down in Salem are talking about making some changes to the state's elections. I hope the talk eventually leads to a fix for this.

Comments (10)

Jack: I am sure lots of us would like that changed. Here's the rub: it fixed a real problem. An outright repeal could mean a return of the countless Republicans showing up to nominate a Nader-type candidate (or even the D's doing the same for a conservative candidate), even though they've already selected their nominee and just doing so to rig the process in their favor . The way it is now, politicians are disadvantaged. The way it was, we all were.

So my question for you is this (and even if you disagree with my premise): what is your alternative solution?

Let party members sign petitions for independent candidates. Or else you can stick your party where the sun don't shine.

If we had write-in only for the general election it would remove many opportunities for official mischief. The party's could figure out all on their own how not to dilute their own party votes by convincing all but one of their own to announce that they are not running. This would not be a "Nader-style" problem, would it? I voted for Nader last time. The cost of including his name on the ballot must have been really, really high given the urgency to exclude whole signature sheets. One write-in line is cheaper.

Initiatives don't matter if folks don't comply with existing law, so it is largely a pointless exercise. Except where someone has to craft rule that is so narrowly tailored to particularized facts that even an imbecile cannot ignore it -- just as a workaround to some prior judicial contortion of a well reasoned, but general, rule.

But Jack, why should as a party member, should I be able to select my candidate AND an independent or 3rd party candidate?

C'mon, you're not the average blogger. It's easy to talk about problems, unlike some you have the intellect to consider a solution. Let's have it.

Political parties are just as private as Microsoft or Exxon or Google (conceptually at least, assuming no social investing with public guaranteed investment dollars). Should we commit public resources to aid Microsoft shareholders in holding elections for board members? Perhaps at the convention center, on the public dime? Should the legislature draft a law that says an investor can invest in any one of the three (for simplicity) but not two or more at any one time?

The target is political parties, and the vote for government. The right to associate or not associate with whom one chooses is far broader -- but it is the relation to the vote for political officials that would enable a slightly speedier resolution in court; maybe 4 years rather than 6 to 10 to the US Supreme Court.

Is the difference between Microsoft and the Libertarian Party (as representatives of classes) a distinction without a difference or a distinction who's sole purpose is to manipulate the outcome in favor the dominant party who may also presently hold office and thereby the initiative to act arbitrarily to boot? The court would look at the seriousness of the "burden" as compared to the posited governmental interest in limiting the right to associate. (Imagine it was Microsoft that obtained a law that said it's investors could not also invest in other companies, and that the power of the state should be used to go on phishing expeditions into private investors personal finances to enforce that limit, on Microsoft's behalf on the "State's" behalf.)

I could have used membership in one religion to the exclusion of others too, with state power to extract a profession of faith or non-faith, as an alternative sort of association where official mischief could go way overboard.

Jesse, OK -- let's have some more of the "I'm dumb because I say I'm dumb" argument, as an argument, for argument sake. The above reasoning, in isolation, is just gibberish, I admit it; can you prove me right?

"But Jack, why should as a party member, should I be able to select my candidate AND an independent or 3rd party candidate?"

Jesse, the bill in question was either an inept or a malicious solution to this "problem".

It is well documented here and elsewhere that this law makes it impossible for a major-party voter to participate in their party's nomination process for one race and also nominate an independent candidate for a different race that also appears on their partisan primary ballot. It does not matter if the voter abstains from voting in the related primary race, or even if the voter abstains from all partisan primary races on their ballot. Even if the major party voter returns a blank ballot in an election for which they have received a partisan ballot, that voter is considered to have participated in their party's nomination process for every partisan primary race on their ballot, and thus their participation in any other nomination process is made void.

(This is not in dispute. If you wish to dispute the facts I have stated in the paragraph above, then go do your homework first: Read the law and talk to your county elections supervisor. I have.)

Thus, this law prevents some people from participating in the single nomination process of their choice on a per-race basis, unless they accept voluntary disenfranchisement from all issues in even-year May elections. Since there are almost always non-partisan issues at stake in any May election, this is a large and undue burden.

(The other option for a major-party voter is to re-register as nonpartisan, of course.)

This is not a fair solution. It is a terrible solution to the "problem"... which itself is basically imaginary.

Remember, this is a nomination process. We're not talking about voting here, where a rule of "one voter, one vote" is the gold standard. We're talking about simply adding people to a ballot.

Nomination is not election; nomination is simply a process for presenting options for the voters to choose among. There is no reason to restrict a registered voter to nominating just one person for a race: If I think there are several people who might do a good job as Mayor of Portland*, there is no reason why I should not be able to help nominate them all for the ballot. The election is when we can each decide if we prefer Mayor Bogdanski to Mayor Williams or Mayor Peek, or if we'd rather have Mayor Fritz. But when it comes to nomination, the more the merrier.

Nomination processes are meant to widen the field of choices, and voting processes are meant to narrow them back down. Confusing the two processes - as this law does - puts our democracy in peril.

As for a better solution, that's really freakin' easy. I can think of several better solutions:
a) Let the parties police their own members' participation. If the Republicans see that Lars Larson** has signed a nomination petition to put Lon Mabon on the ballot for Governor as an independent, they can eject him from the party if they want to. Or not. And if the Greens don't want nonmembers packing their nomination convention, they can ask for ID at the door and check it against their membership list. It's not my problem, and it's certainly not the State's problem.
b) Let the parties run their whole nomination process themselves. If the Democrats want to field just one candidate, let them figure out who it should be. Why are we spending the tax dollars of the 23% or so voters who are not a member of any party on printing, stuffing, and counting separate ballots for the major parties' internal processes? Personally, I'd like a refund.
c) Make every nomination process the same. Make every candidate, no matter which party they are or are not a member of, return a signature sheet that contains the same minimum number of nomination signatures. Registered voters may sign for as many as they like. All candidates with valid nomination sheets go one one open primary ballot, and the top two votegetters run off in the general election.

Optionally, we could amplify any of the above with:

d) Prohibit the State from tracking an individual's party membership, except when the individual is a candidate for partisan elected office. The parties can track their own membership. After all, do we really want the State tracking our political associations?

Not so hard.

See, you're falling into a logical trap here. What you state in your first post in this thread is that Democrats had a problem with Republicans acting in support of the Greens. But the Democratic Party has no business saying what citizens who are not its members do on their own time... and much less business saying what participation the Greens are allowed to solicit. It's called the right of free association, and the legislature has interfered with it.

Here's an assignment for you: find me a Green or an Independent who voted for this law. Once you've tried to do that, tell me who you think this law really protects.

Because this law is not about protecting citizens, independents, or minor parties from major-party interference. This law is a collaboation between the major parties to use State power to further entrench their dominance by stifling the nomination of independent candidates.

And that ain't right.

*: If I lived in Portland, which I don't.
**: If he lived in Oregon, which apparently he doesn't.

"why should as a party member, should I be able to select my candidate AND an independent or 3rd party candidate?"

Well then by that logic, why should a non-party member be able to sign multiple nomination petitions for different candidates to the same office.

If Candidate X and Candidate Y are both gathering signatures to garner independent nominations for governor and I sign petitions for each, I must be getting "two primary votes" again.

Is the Secretary of State going to check and catalogue every nomination signature (rather than conduct a random sample) to prevent this travesty from occuring?

Somehow, I doubt it.

The majority party gets to pick their candidate, and then have a say as to who is to run agaisnt them? Talk about stacking the deck...

Open primaries are a really, really bad idea.

Thank you, Alan, for that excellent post. There is a big difference between nominating someone and electing someone, and for the major parties to use their government power to exclude third-party candidates from the ballot is criminal.

And Jesse Cornett, you of all people should know better than to make that argument.

Thanks, Allan. Some of what you said was covered here previously, but not in such fine style.


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