For the half-million Oregon voters who reject party labels, the May election ballot can be pretty boring. Shut out of the Republican and Democratic primaries, this growing bloc of voters is left with a handful of nonpartisan local races and a perplexing question: Is it necessary to vote for all these judges running unopposed? This November, Oregon voters decide whether to enliven their primary ballots. Under Measure 90, the state would abandon partisan primaries and adopt a top-two election system similar to what is used in neighboring Washington and California.
Instead of only Democrats voting in the Democratic primary and only Republicans voting in the Republican primary, the measure would put all candidates on a single ballot and allow everyone — including nonaffiliated voters — the chance to vote. The top two vote-getters would advance to the general election in November, even if they are from the same party.
Supporters contend the measure increases fairness by giving independent voters a voice. Their other selling point is that centrist candidates would have a better chance of going to Salem or Washington D.C., because Republicans and Democrats would need to broaden their appeal beyond their primary bases, typically social conservatives and union members, respectively.
“We don’t call this a panacea that fixes all the problems with politics,” said Jim Kelly, the chief petitioner. “It’s merely a step in the right direction.”