Oregon’s House of Unrepresentatives?

The filing deadline for Oregon’s primary election passed this week, and of Oregon’s 60 House of Representative Districts, 17 will have a single major party candidate. One (House District 27) will have a Democrat and Independent but not a Republican. One (House District 58) will have a Republican and Independent but not Democrat. And one (House District 45) will have a contested Democratic Primary, but no other major party candidates.

In Sum.

  • 17 of Oregon’s 60 House Seats – almost 30%- have already been decided as only a single major party candidate filed.
  • one will be decided in a May contest between two Democrats.
  • two will be contested by an Independent against a Democrat or Republican in November.

Yes, anyone “can” legally run. But but that’s a fake argument because a theoretical choice that never materializes is really no choice at all. And an election architecture that creates barriers to entry is just as bad – maybe worse –  as a voting registration system that creates barriers to registration and voting. Because it’s that choice architecture that is a very big reason highly qualified people don’t run in non competitive districts unless they belong to the dominant party.

Highly qualified candidate means one has the respect and support of a community. It means that one has a reputation and a book of work in your community that is valued. And running and losing big as the less dominant major party, or as a Green, Progressive, Libertarian or Independent, is daunting and even dangerous to ones reputation. It’s extremely difficult to raise the funding absent the backing of the dominant major party, and losing contests by wide margins is not something community leaders want to do. And if an Independent or minor party candidate were to gain traction, the dominant major party in that district will not be afraid to do whatever it takes to secure “their” seat regardless of the unfair damage to ones hard earned reputation. That’s simply not a path many community leaders are willing to take.

A core mission of the Independent Party of Oregon is to reform our election architecture to create more choices for more voters, more paths to elective offices to more community leaders and a more representative group of elected Representatives. Whether they are Republican Democratic, Libertarian, Progressive, Green, non affiliated or Independent.

Changes in election choice architecture that provide actual choices for voters and result in a House of Representatives could include:

  • Ranked choice voting
  • Multi representative districts (Multi member districts)
  • Campaign finance reform that includes small donor matching program
  • Fair redistricting with independent redistricting commission
  • Open primaries
  • A program where candidates who pledge to voluntary spending limits get special recognition in the voters pamphlet

These are not exclusive and some are alternatives. But there are many reforms Oregon could adopt that would reduce barriers to competition and offer voters actual choices. And better choices.

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