The Independent Party of Oregon is a Force to be Reckoned with in the State's New Fusion Voting System

Third party voters and activists disappointed by the passage of Proposition 14 in California may be heartened by consideration of the new electoral fusion system that has gone into effect this year in Oregon. Passed in 2009, Oregon SB 326 effectively created an aggregated fusion voting system in the Beaver State, allowing candidates for partisan public office to obtain the nominations of up to three political parties. The relatively young Independent Party of Oregon appears to be the most immediate beneficiary of the new system. Founded in 2007, the IPO is already the state's third largest party, with over 50,000 registered voters. It is thus no surprise that over 80 candidates for public office are currently seeking the party's official endorsement. From an announcement on June 3rd:
77 candidates are seeking the party's nomination for state legislative office, including 39 Democrats, 32 Republicans, 5 Independents, and a Libertarian. Of these 77 candidates, 60 of them already won their their own major party primaries. 36 of them are incumbent legislators. The party expects to have 20 contested races for its nominations, including 9 in the Oregon Senate and 11 in the Oregon House.
From an announcement on June 4th:
The Party qualified 3 candidates for Governor and 6 candidates for U.S. Representative. In addition to the contested primary race for Governor, there will be contested races for the Independent Party nomination in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Congressional Districts.
The IPO does not have a platform, per se, but rather supports a series of political, structural and electoral reforms. Among other things, the party calls for: campaign finance reform aimed at limiting the power of corporations to influence elections; the institution of a unicameral state legislature; the easing of ballot access restrictions; and the empowerment of citizens through a voter initiative process. Thus, if the party's nomination is conditional upon a candidate's support for any number of these issues, electoral fusion in Oregon will likely lead to significant reforms aimed at empowering citizens over and against corporate interests typically represented by the Democratic and Republican political establishment.

The two-party establishment clearly recognizes the threat posed to them by the Independent Party's new-found influence. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have filed complaints against the Independent Party in the last two weeks questioning the group's legitimacy as well as its fund-raising practices. The Independent Party has called the accusations "baseless" and "without merit." In a guest column at Oregon Live, the party's secretary, Sal Peralta defends the IPO and the state's new fusion voting system, writing:
This will be the most open and inclusive primary election in Oregon's history. For the first time, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians and Greens -- more than 80 candidates in all -- will compete head-to-head for the nomination of the Independent Party. Every member of the party will have the opportunity to vote. Voters will see the winners of these races designated as "Independent" in November because under Oregon's new fusion voting law, every candidate may now list the names of up to three nominating parties on the general election ballot (for example, "Connie Candidate -- Democrat, Independent" or "Sammy Citizen -- Republican, Independent"). . . .

I hope that these candidates will spend the next few months talking to voters about the need for increased cooperation, transparency and bipartisanship in government, and about reducing special-interest influence in politics through comprehensive campaign finance reform . . .

The Independent Party can be a new kind of force in Oregon politics, a party that seeks to reward people for working collaboratively to solve the major issues of the day rather than simply toeing the caucus line.

I see the Independent Party as a tool that can help bring together a coalition of legislators and officeholders from across the political spectrum in service to a moderate, bipartisan, public interest center that is underserved in politics today.

Who's with us?
For more on fusion voting in the United States, see also my recent column at CAIVN, entitled, "Fusion Voting and Independent Politics."

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