Give us open primaries

The Independent Party of Oregon, all 124,777 of them, is giving nonaffiliated voters in the state something the two majors refuse to do. It will allow the 948,697 (as of October) nonaffiliated registered voters a chance to have a say in its primary election. More power to them.

Oregon’s closed primary system, in which voters may cast ballots only in their political party’s primary, is about what it was when it was adopted in 1904. Republicans may vote in the Republican primary, Democrats in the Democratic one and Independents in theirs. Members of smaller parties, too, hold primaries for their voters, and only nonaffiliated voters are left out of primary elections entirely.

Yet nonaffiliated voters make up roughly a third of all registered voters in the state, with more voters than either Democrats or Republicans.

They will have the option to vote in the Independent Party primary in 2020, and the party may nominate candidates from other parties if it chooses. The Independents are expected to hold their primary in March, two months before Republicans and Democrats hold theirs.

Nonaffiliated voters also can register with parties up to 21 days before an election if they so choose, just as party members may switch parties until then, though that isn’t a particularly common practice.

There’s a better way to handle the problem.

Oregon’s two major parties could decide to make Oregon’s primary election open to all comers, no matter what their registration, though the national Democratic Party rules would still prevent outsiders from voting for presidential candidates, according to the Portland Tribune. No matter how attractive the idea of an open primary is, nonaffiliated voters will have only a couple of choices if they hope to have a say in statewide and presidential primaries next year. They can vote with the Independents. Or, they can join one of the two major parties before the primary and switch back afterwards. Each is better than nothing, but neither is better than a fully open primary would be. In a state that puts so much value on participating in elections that it automatically registers voters when they renew their driver’s licenses, that is particularly unfortunate.

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