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Opening Oregon Primaries

Nearly a million Oregon voters are cut out of our primary elections with the numbers growing every day. It’s time we meet these voters half way and allow them into the process.

As I’ve said since the beginning, my campaign for Secretary of State will be driven by policies and ideas.

So, here is my position on why Oregon should open its primaries to nonaffiliated voters.

Include – don’t exclude – unaffiliated voters

Oregon is a closed primary state. Only voters registered to a political party can participate. That means 40 percent of the electorate who choose not to affiliate with a party are unable to vote in primaries. The number of unaffiliated voters is growing. Unaffiliated voters now account for 940,000 people – it’s the largest segment of voters in Oregon. Yet they are disenfranchised from primary elections. Oregon voting laws need keep up with enrollment trends.

Background

The 2018 Oregon primary election had one of the lowest turnouts in decades. This trend will continue as more and more voters opt not to affiliate with a political party and as long as the two major parties refuse to allow them to participate in their primaries. National Democratic Party rules prohibit the Democratic Party of Oregon from opening up the presidential primary to voters who haven’t registered as Democrats. But all other state and local races could be opened.

The Oregon Democratic Party is exploring whether to open its primaries to include unaffiliated voters without forcing them to join the party. I support this move because it recognizes the reality of voting trends. Eleven states have made this move – and the sky didn’t fall. It’s time Oregon join these states to allow more Oregonians a chance to participate in elections.

Hass proposal

I have formally asked the Democratic Party of Oregon to change its rules and allow non-affiliated voters to participate in primary elections. Democrats in the states that have made this move say those voters who vote in a Democratic primary are more likely to support that Democrat in the general election.

Most non-affiliated voters prefer not to be affiliated with an organized party. Some are tired of partisan polarization. We should meet them where they are and invite them to participate in our primaries.

When I talk to these voters, they say they care about the same things I do: education, carbon reduction, and basic fairness for working people.

And yet, we exclude them from primary elections. That doesn’t send a good message when we ask for their vote in November.

Democrats have long been the party of inclusion. We should make it easier to participate in elections – not harder.

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