by Hannah Hoffman
Statesman-Journal, Feb 3, 2015

Oregon could soon become the only state in the country with three major political parties.

The Independent Party of Oregon announced Monday it now has enough members to meet the Oregon Secretary of State's criteria for a major party, alongside the Democratic and Republican parties of Oregon.

The party, whose mascot is an elk, now has 108,744 members. That is six people beyond the requirement (5 percent of eligible voters in most recent election), party Secretary Sal Peralta said.

It is up to the office of Secretary of State Kate Brown to verify all the members and make the official pronouncement that the Independent Party is, in fact, a major party.

If so, it would change elections in two ways, Peralta said.

First, it would allow the Independent Party to participate in the May primary election, which is run by the state. Currently, the party runs its own elections during the summer. In the future, it would enjoy the same service from the state that Republican and Democratic parties do, with official ballots sent to members.

Second, it would change how Independent Party candidates are nominated.

Oregon allows dual nominations, where a person can be officially nominated by a major party and any minor parties as well. The Independent Party currently nominates Democrats and Republicans, candidates who have also been nominated by their own parties.

In the future, the party would be only be allowed to nominate its own members. It will not be allowed to nominate anyone who belongs to any other party.

That goes against the party's mission, Peralta said, which was to open the election process to people who did not want to fit into just one box. He said it was meant to expand access to the political process and has never wanted to restrict nominations to only Independent Party members.

If the legislature doesn't change the members-only requirement in the future, the party plans to take the state to court as a violation of its First Amendment right to freedom of association, Peralta said.

If Oregon does go forward with three parties, it would be the only state in the country to do so.

Nationally, the idea of three major parties appears to be a popular one. A Sept. 2014 Gallup Poll found that 58 percent of United States adults supported having a third party. Just 35 percent said the two existing parties do an adequate job representing the American people.

In Oregon, about a third of voters do not belong to a major party.

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