Measure 65 will destroy Oregon minor political parties, reduce voter choices, confuse the ballots, reward dirty politicking, and not elect moderate candidates anyway.
Today, Oregon's six minor parties can provide good alternatives to Democratic and Republican candidates in the November general election. But Measure 65 (the "top two primary") abolishes the Pacific Green, Constitution, Working Families, and Peace parties by removing their legal basis (getting 1% of the vote in the previous statewide general election).
Further, Measure 65 is intended by its sponsors to remove all minor party and all citizen-sponsored candidates from the general election ballot, including those supported by tens of thousands of voter signatures.
Under Measure 65, any resident can register as, say, a "Democrat" (up to the 70th day before the primary election) and immediately file as a candidate, with "Registered: Democratic" next to his name on the ballot. This person may be a Nazi, Communist, convicted child molester, etc. Any party can have its identity stolen this way by complete strangers who suddenly become "their" candidates on the primary ballot.
Each party will fight the resulting voter confusion by "endorsing" a candidate in each race, since Measure 65 allows party endorsements also to appear on the ballot. No party would want to endorse more than one candidate per race, as that would split the votes of the party faithful and harm their candidates' chances to finish in the "top two" and advance to the general election. If voters follow these "endorsements," this means Measure 65 will, in effect, replace the major party primaries with backroom endorsement deals.
Measure 65 will force minor parties to "endorse" candidates they do not agree with, just to oppose the strangers on the ballot who suddenly claim to be "their" candidates. Minor parties do not field candidates for every partisan office, rarely nominating more than a few candidates for the 75 races for the Oregon Legislature, for example. To avoid having their party labels hijacked by strangers, each minor party will be forced to endorse major party candidates in these races, even they differ with the minor party on the issues.
Under Measure 65, primary elections could become a game of "ringers," with political consultants recruiting candidates just to split the votes of the other parties. Republican consultants could recruit people to register and file as "Democratic" candidates, splitting the Democratic vote. Democrats could recruit phony "Republicans." Both of them could recruit phony "Independents" and phony "Libertarians," further increasing the party identity theft.
Expect a confusing ballot, with a dozen or more candidates for each major office who are "Registered" and/or "Endorsed" the surviving parties. In primary elections since 1979 in Louisiana, the only place where the Measure 65 system has operated for a full election cycle, there have been 9, 9, 8, 12, 16, 11, 17, and 12 candidates for Governor alone.
Measure 65 will not necessarily advance "moderate" candidates to the general election. In Louisiana, it has advanced extremists, as the moderate vote is split among several moderate candidates in the primary. Ku Klux Clan leader David Duke has twice advanced to the statewide Louisiana general election. Of the 16 candidates for Governor in 1995, the "top two" (with 26% and 19% of the vote) were the considered two most extreme. The organization FairVote states:
A Republican state legislator, Duke ran a strong second in the 1990 U.S. Senate election and gained a spot in the runoff election in the governor's race in 1991. In that 1991 runoff, he faced Edwin Edwards, a former governor with a history of suspected corruption. Indicating the polarized nature of the choice between Duke and Edwards, a popular bumper sticker in favor of Edwards was: "Vote the Crook: It's Important."
In the 1995 governor's race, sixteen candidates ran in the opening round, including four major candidates who ultimately won at least 18% of the vote. The two most ideologically extreme major candidates were Mike Foster, a conservative Republican who earned Pat Buchanan's endorsement and inherited much of David Duke's constituency, and Cleo Fields. a leading liberal Democrat in the Congressional Black Caucus. They advanced to the runoff election with a combined vote of only 45% of votes casts, with the more centrist vote split among other candidates. Foster ultimately was elected in the runoff election.
A Louisiana-style nonpartisan primary easily can produce these kind of results because in a large field of candidates, the top two vote-getters can have relatively few votes. In a multi-candidate field, this rule tends to favor non-moderate candidates with the strongest core support that can be narrow rather than broad.
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