Save Oregon's Democracy
Vote NO on Measure 90

Measure 90 would Silence the Voices of Smaller Parties and their Members

FOR RELEASE: 9/23/2014

Under "top two" primaries, voters lose the ability to vote for grassroots parties in fall elections, and most parties in Oregon would lose their legal status entirely.

If it were to pass, one of the most immediate effects of Measure 90 would be to shut minor parties out of November elections.

In states that have adopted the "top two" elections system (California and Washington), minor parties and non-affiliated candidates almost never make the fall ballot, as they don’t have enough campaign resources to compete with well-funded major party candidates in primary elections.

In fact, according to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, any time a primary race in California or Washington has included at least two major party candidates, minor party candidates have been entirely closed out of the November election.

"Eliminating grassroots parties would limit the debate not only for today but far into the future," says Blair Bobier, spokesperson for the Pacific Green Party of Oregon. "The role of third parties is to introduce ideas long before they are commonly accepted. Once seemingly 'radical' ideas—from marriage equality and the abolition of slavery to ending cannabis prohibition and recognizing the right of women to vote—were all first championed by third parties."

Most Minor Parties Will Lose Their Party Status Under Measure 90

Measure 90 does not allow anyone to get on the general election ballot by voter petition. And, because of the way Measure 90 is written, minor parties may lose their party status entirely.

Under current law, most of Oregon's minor parties retain their status if by nominating a candidate who receives 1% or more of the vote in a statewide race in the general election (ORS 248.008(1)(b)(A), (B)).

But, by design, Measure 90 eliminates party nominations. Parties can endorse candidates, but they would no longer nominate them. This sets up a vicious cycle for minor parties: Those parties cannot nominate candidates, but they can only retain party status if the candidates they nominate receive votes.

The impartial Oregon Citizens’ Review Committee voted 14-5 vote to oppose Measure 90, in part because:

"Measure 90 has several drafting errors. The most significant appears to eliminate minor parties. Because M90 bars parties from nominating candidates, their legal status is in jeopardy."

The increasing number of general election voters who do not identify with either of the two major parties will no longer be able to choose minor party or non-affiliated candidates in the fall election.

"'Top two' means that voters will only be able to vote for Democrats or Republicans in the general election, when choice and participation matter most," says David Delk of the Oregon Progressive Party. "Grassroots parties campaign on issues that no one else will talk about—if we can’t ever make the fall ballot, our voices will be gone for good."

"'Top two' in practice means just Democrats and Republicans," Delk continued. "Under 'top two' in California and Washington, there have been zero minor party candidates on the general election ballot for statewide office and zero minor party candidates for any office, including the Legislature, if at least two major party candidates run in the primary."

Without a candidate line on the November ballot, when the most voters cast their vote, recent election results from California and Washington show that minor parties struggle to even stay in existence.

"We're getting wiped out by top two," said Michael Feinstein, spokesman for the California Green Party and former mayor of Santa Monica. "It's wiping out political diversity and choice that voters now are not going to get."—"'Top-two' primary elections spell end for many minor parties," San Francisco Chronicle, May 27, 2014

"Cross-Party" Endorsements are No Substitute for Real Participation on the Ballot

When minor parties have candidates on the ballot, their issues become part of the political conversation. Their candidates get invited to forums and to endorsement interviews, and their activists run grassroots campaigns to spread the word to voters when they’re actually paying attention to politics (during a November election). The parties—and non-affiliated candidates—have the chance to air their values and positions in order to win support.

Measure 90 would eliminate this diversity of positions and personalities and replace it with just two major party candidates.

Measure 90 proponents claim that "fusion voting" or "cross-party" endorsements will solve this problem, by allowing parties to put their names next to certain candidates on the ballot. On the contrary, cross-party endorsements merely force these parties to choose between one of two well-funded, major party candidates—something that most grassroots parties have zero interest in doing.

"Imagine a store where the only drinks you could buy are Coke or Pepsi, because those were most popular drinks earlier in the year. No more juice, no milk, no water," says Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. "You wouldn’t put up with such limited choice in a grocery store, so why would you put up with it when selecting something as important as our political leaders in the general election?"