Our Goal in 2022
Our goal in 2022 is to ensure that all registered voters can vote and all qualified candidates can compete on equal terms in Oregon’s publicly funded primaries. We seek to place an initiative for a constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot to make this happen.
Oregon Open Primaries is a team of volunteers with diverse backgrounds. We are open, objective and nonpartisan in our approach, and we come from all parts of the state. We have no partisan ax to grind. We seek only to move our great state to a fully open, equitable, non-preferential primary system that benefits all Oregonians.
Oregon’s primary process needs overhaul. Our primary system is much like it was when it was adopted in 1904, and it’s time to modernize.
The voter landscape has changed dramatically. Non-affiliated voters in Oregon now total almost 1 million voters — fully one-third of the electorate. Non-affiliated voters outnumber Republican voters and they are close to outnumbering Democratic voters. Non-affiliated voters are registered voters with no preference for a political party.
Under current law, voters registered as members of one of the two major parties (Democratic and Republican) can vote in publicly funded primaries for the state’s most important offices — seats in Congress, seats in the Oregon Legislature, and state executive offices such as Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. That’s great, but … non-affiliated voters are barred from voting in publicly funded primaries for these offices. Voters who are members of one of Oregon’s several smaller parties likewise are barred.
Primaries are taxpayer-funded, publicly administered elections that must be accessible to all voters and candidates
No longer should voters and candidates be required to join a private organization – i.e., a major party – to participate in a publicly funded election
In publicly funded primaries, all registered voters should be entitled to vote and all qualified candidates should be entitled to compete
No exclusions based on party affiliation or non-affiliation
Free, open, head-to-head competition and broader voter choice
That’s unfair. That’s not free and equal.
Further, non-affiliated candidates are barred from competing in publicly funded primaries.
That limits competition and it limits voters’ choice of candidates.
What is the solution to the inequities in our primary system? The first step is a constitutional amendment that guarantees that all registered voters can vote and all qualified candidates can compete on equal terms in publicly funded primaries. Simple, straightforward and nonpartisan. By including these guarantees in the constitution, voting and candidate rights will be locked in and can’t be changed except by the voters themselves.
Amend Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Oregon to read:
Elections Free. All elections shall be free and equal.
(1) In all publicly funded elections for state and federal office, the state shall only select candidates for the general election by conducting an open primary election in which all qualified candidates and electors may participate regardless of political party affiliation or non-affiliation.
(2) As used in this section, “office” means all state and federal legislative offices and all statewide elected offices.
When the amendment passes, it will correct a fundamental unfairness. The constitutional amendment will serve as a catalyst for change in the electoral process, with equal access for all voters and qualified candidates as a foundation. There are many electoral process reforms that will require debate and action. The Oregon Legislature would be expected to take up statutory reform of Oregon’s primary process promptly after the initiative passes. If the legislature fails to respond to voters’ direction, then we or others may propose a second initiative in 2024 to bring election statutes and policies into conformance with the constitutional amendment.