Dear friends and supporters,
This journey that began last October has passed its second significant milestone. This step gives us cause to pause and reflect on what we've learned and on the path forward to the nation's first equal vote. This is also a time to thank all those tireless souls calling for change: extolling friends and strangers alike to engage in the process, to rise above the sound bites and challenge us all to improve our democracy.
The election season is a time where we spend a lot of energy disagreeing. Now that the dust has settled it's a good time to mention what we agree about. Specifically, when it comes to election reform, proponents and opponents of the measure du juor and the electorate as a whole demonstrated that we actually have a broad consensus about both the need for reform and the high bar Oregonians will demand any such proposed reform must cross:
We want an election system that reduces the influence of money in politics. We don't want to inadvertently increase the influence of special interest spending when we increase access to the franchise.
Choice should be maximized in the November election, when the most voters participate. Currently (and under Measure 90), the field of candidates is narrowed in May - at an election when many fewer people are paying attention and in which many voters are currently not allowed to participate. This creates a non-representative "culling", forces candidates to run two campaigns and raise two elections worth of cash, and increases the influence of money in the process because it gives opposition research and negative campaigning six months to beat the crap out of the opponent. We witnessed this writ large in both the Senate and Governor's race this cycle.
Oregonians want a better election system. When polled early on, voters overwhelmingly (72% to 18%) favored the change to an election system that allows all the voters to participate equally in all phases of the process. The defeat of this particular measure should not in any way diminish the chorus of voices for change, and no groups ought be more vocal about change than those whose mission includes engaging the next generation in the political process. A strong majority of Oregon's new voters are choosing not to affiliate with a major party, which immediately excludes them from the first and arguably most meaningful choice.
We need a real debate on election reform. The initiative process is not the optimal venue to have the initial discussion because proposed reforms cannot be changed once under petition. We will encourage the creation of a true coalition of the many organizations with a stake in good government and the political process to take an active role in this conversation. Which particular systems are endorsed and how elections are staged ought to be topics of vigorous and thoughtful debate.
On a personal note, I'd like to thank all the friends, associates and hundreds of volunteers who have pitched in time, passion and energy to help us move towards a better democracy - whatever side of this particular debate we've all ended up on. In calling out a few I am leaving out many.
I might not have started down this path at all without the encouragement of my friend Chris Edwards, who's been fighting the good fight at the statehouse for several years now, not to mention my many friends from the Oregon Bus Project who helped me believe that one's actions can actually make a difference in the political process: Jefferson Smith, Tara Sulzen, Henry Krahmer, Quinn Reilly - that list goes on and on.
My thanks to the crew of folks here in Eugene who helped carry the torch for the Unified Primary from its inception through the signature drive - Kyle Marx, Hallie Roberts, Erin Bear, Paul Scott, Chenoa Skaggs, Jesse Fittipaldi, Rick Dancer, Connor Salisbury, Cliff Volpe and many more.
My thanks to the early "angel" donors: Tom Bowerman, Jim Kelly, John Von Schlegell, Stan Amy, Brett Wilcox. They all took a flyer on a new and unproven "Oregon first" system and provided us with the spark to get the initiative off the ground.
My thanks to the folks I've only just met on this project working to improve our democracy nationally: Clay Shentrup and Aaron Hamlin from the Center for Election Science, Jackie Salit from independent voting, Chad Peace from the End Partisanship coalition, Rob Richie from FairVote.
My thanks to my friends who serve publicly and have acknowledged the need for reform while objecting to the particular measure put before the voters: Representative Phil Barnhart and House Majority Leader Val Hoyle. Thank you for calling for a substantive conversation about our voting system in the 2015 session.
And my thanks to the good friends from all corners of the political spectrum who fought the sometimes very lonely fight to advocate for those our current system disenfranchises: Sarah Lyons, Ashley Henry, Caitlin Baggott, Jeremy Rogers, Jacob Daniels.
The prize is still up for grabs. Onward and upward!
Founder, Equal Vote Coalition