The Independent Party of Oregon last month received enough members to become the newest major party in the country, joining Oregon’s Republican and Democratic parties that receive state-funded primaries. It was a well-documented and long-expected achievement as voters left the two main parties to become either unaffiliated with any party or register with a minor group, and the Independent Party membership steadily grew. So party officials and a former secretary of state wonder why Secretary of State Kate Brown hasn’t certified the party as Oregon’s first new major political group in decades. The longer Brown waits to certify the party — she has until mid-August — the less time the party has to get ready for its first election comparable to the other major parties, so the party’s officials hope Brown moves quickly as they prepare for 2016. “What’s really driving the membership growth is that more than half the country doesn’t feel well-represented by either two of the major parties,” party secretary Sal Peralta said.
A minor party hits the major threshold when its total membership is more than 5 percent of the number of registered voters for the 2014 general election. Independents passed that threshold by five members this month, with the largest concentration of members residing in Deschutes County.
Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling said he was surprised to hear Brown’s office didn’t have a decision ready when the party hit the number, considering the party’s rapid growth has been well-known since its 2007 founding.
“I think it would be reasonable to expect a declaration by the secretary of state of this status along with the notification of the party official that (Independents) are now” a major party, Keisling said.