Oregon now has a third major political party — the Independent Party.
Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins announced Monday that the Independent Party of Oregon had 109,363 registered voters as of August, equaling more than 5 percent of the state’s registered voters. That’s the threshold for becoming a major party.
The party will be a part of the state’s 2016 primaries in May, and the party’s candidates will also be listed on the 2016 ballot, next to their Republican and Democratic counterparts.
“Overwhelmingly the people coming to our party are joining because they’re frustrated by the polarization and hyper-partisanship that they’re seeing in the Legislature and in our elections,” said Sal Peralta, secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon, on OPB’s All Things Considered Monday.
Peralta also responded to the claim that some voters who didn’t want to register with a party had mistakenly registered Independent. “We think people are purposefully joining,” he said, “and that the reason we’re getting attacked by the Republicans and Democrats is because they don’t want voters to have a third alternative.”
Established less than a decade ago, the Independent Party of Oregon hasn’t always had a clear platform. The party surveys its members to learn what its priorities will become.
Thus far, party leaders say, supporters have shown a strong preference for consumer protection, campaign finance reform, economic development, more collaboration and increased transparency in government.
Independent Party candidates must register by Sept. 10 to be included in the primary election. Peralta said the party hopes to recruit candidates in 10 to 12 legislative districts in the Oregon House and Senate with the hopes of getting two or three people elected.
AP contributed to this report.