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Monday, April 9, 2007

Too much unpredictability

State seeks to rig Oregon elections
Primary changes would deny challengers, newcomers

Does anyone really believe the Oregon Law Commission that spent all last year 'studying' Oregon's Legislature is something other than an unelected, shadow government? The commission's No. 1 recommendation to lock power down in Salem is to create a so-called "open primary system."

The Establishment is hell-bent on ending competition in Oregon elections. Already, the root cause of the state's problem with political legitimacy is plain to see. Oregon's fastest growing segment of voters are those who are not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Last year more than 450,000 of Oregon's 2 million registered voters were forced to pay for "official party" candidate coronations and then participate in a general election in which no true independent lawmakers were elected and only 3 incumbent regulars were defeated.

We actually need a primary election system that encourages diverse qualifications among our elected officials - not just political hackery. And we need a system in which all parties pay their own cost of selecting their candidates. There is no reason the public should be forced to foot the bill for these choices.

But new proposed rules would shut the system to such diversity, by building-in an insurmountable advantage with new subsidies for major party candidates, especially incumbents.

The change would do zilch to actually open the system. Instead, it would force disenfranchised voters to participate in sham elections in which no "alternative" candidates could break through. The public commission strongly endorsed open primaries for a simple reason: It believes a competitive, accountable political system encourages too much unpredictability. They want to wreck Oregon's citizen Legislature.

So does The Oregonian, of course. The state's dominant news organ and statewide monopoly paper wants politicians prostrated at their feet for approval. That explains why this session is becoming a disaster. The influence peddling is often felt, but rarely seen.

No election system is perfect. But the so-called "open primary" would disenfranchise the most voters and would encourage fewer candidates outside the party mainstream to advance. Regrettably, this deform will likely pass the Legislature, along with many other political power plays that are all the vogue these days.

This session is about clarity of purpose if nothing else. Oregon's political establishment is taking our state in a direction charted by government-union collectivists who hold all the cards, cheered on by Si Newhouse, the out-of-state media-mogul owner of The Oregonian whose family has monopolized Oregon news and wrung billions of dollars from our local economy over 57 years, since 1950.

The Oregonian, Apr. 9, OPINION By THE EDITORS

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