In Oregon, over the last 3 decades, much progress has been made toward the goal of free elections. Independent voters weren’t even recognized as a legitimate political group in 1990 – they are now. There’s no longer any attempt to defend public-funding of closed party primaries, and resentment over the exclusion of Independents in the presidential primary is growing. Still, it’s obvious that election reform efforts have stalled completely.
In recent years, Oregon voters have rejected “Top-Two” ballot measures twice, in 2008 and 2014. Both measures failed by huge margins: 66% to 34%. In 2012, voters in Arizona rejected a similar Top-Two initiative. A completely different state with a completely different electorate, but the result was nearly identical: 67% to 33%.
When an initiative fails by a 2:1 margin, there’s something fatally wrong with the underlying proposal. Putting yet another measure on the ballot – in another state – with a new sponsor and marketing plan – won’t work. We need to figure why voter opposition is so strong. Are voters opposed to free elections in general – or just the Top-Two primary? In all three of the cases mentioned above, pre-election polls showed better than 60% support for election reform. It’s the Top-Two primary that voters have rejected – not free elections .
The Hybrid Primary Election
If your trying to navigate a maze and you reach a “dead end”, giving up isn’t the answer – but you do need to backtrack and attempt a different path. This is probably a good analogy for election reform in Oregon and elsewhere. Top-Two primary initiatives passed in both Washington State and California, but the Top-Two primary is a “dead-end” in both Oregon and Arizona. At this point, it’s not clear that Oregon or Arizona voters will ever support any non-partisan primary reform initiative. The hybrid primary is an alternative to nonpartisan primary reform that ultimately gets us to the same destination – the end of voter and candidate exclusion (free elections).
Rather than abolishing closed partisan primaries, a hybrid primary uses a two-stage vote tally to combine the existing closed primaries with an open Top-Four election. The major parties retain the ability to consolidate their base of support behind a single candidate for each office, while Independent and Minor Party voters secure the right to participate in selecting the top candidates for the general election ballot. Along the way, Minor Party and Independent candidates secure the right to equal ballot access. All of this without any additional cost to the taxpayer.
The hybrid primary is a “new thing”. It was first proposed in late 2016, and it has yet to be implemented in any state (as of 2019). For a more detailed overview, read the post: “What is a hybrid primary?” For an interesting overview of “exclusion”, read the post: “What is a propaganda?”. Democrats and Republicans are well organized, have many resources at their disposal, and actively oppose election reform. This post highlights their most effective tactic by citing examples from the web.