When someone registers to vote, they immediately make the first of many important decisions. Choosing a particular political party, or to not belong to any of them, becomes the basis for many decisions that follow. It even becomes a strong point of identity for many people.
This election, Oregonians are being asked to vote on Measure 90. If passed, this measure would essentially do away with partisan primary elections in the state.
Measure 90 is being sold as a way for third party and non-affiliated voters to participate in the process. It is, however, deeply flawed.
People register to vote as either a Democrat or a Republican so they can take part in those parties’ primary elections. That is one of the biggest reasons that many people choose to belong to those parties, instead of a third party or no party at all.
Although many local offices are already non-partisan, positions at the state and federal level are not. There are many reasons for this.
A candidate’s political party affiliation helps voters determine the basis of that individual’s core philosophy. Based on that, it can be easier to determine what kind of positions that candidate will take once elected to office.
Belonging to a party makes a voter invested in its vision, platform and candidate selection processes. One of the most critical of those processes is the partisan primary election.
The solution put forth by the proponents of Measure 90 is for a problem that does not exist. Third party and non-affiliated voters are not banned from participating in local elections for persons in non-partisan offices. They are also in no way prohibited from voting in general elections.
If somebody wants to vote in a Republican or a Democratic primary election, all they have to do is register for one of those parties. It stands to reason that Republican voters would want a say in what candidates that party will run in the general election, and the same is true for the Democrats.
If the overall issue is one of enabling greater participation from people of all political persuasions, there is another solution, and it’s a simple one—allow and encourage third parties to have primary elections. Let their voters pick from multiple qualified candidates or rally around a single one the same way that members of the two major parties do.
Ever since the founding of this nation, our system has, for the most part, involved choosing between candidates offered by two major parties. The modern Republican and Democratic parties can trace their origins back to parties of years past.
Parties have come and gone, as they should be allowed to do. But the philosophies that shape them are eventually adopted and become part of a new party’s platform.
Ultimately, if somebody wants to have influence over the Republican or Democratic parties, the best way to do so is from the inside. Don’t let large amounts of out-of-state money convince you to replace our current system with the risky experiment that would result from the passage of Measure 90.
Rep. Sal Esquivel has represented the Medford area in the Legislature since 2003. Prior to that, he served for over seven years on the Medford City Council.