by Sal Peralta
Register Guard Op-Ed, 2/7/2015
The Register-Guard hit the nail on the head in its Feb. 5 editorial about the challenges faced by the Independent Party of Oregon now that it has reached major party status.
I appreciate the coverage and encourage readers, community leaders and others concerned about the direction our politics has taken — the gerrymandering of districts, the unwillingness or inability of the other two parties to work collaboratively, and the influence of special interests in both Salem and Washington, D.C. — to take a look at the Independent Party.
We seek to provide a moderate alternative to the status quo, and a vehicle for candidates who live in districts where there is currently very little competition. Our core issues include consumer protection, government transparency, reducing special interest control over our political process, and reforms to encourage businesses to expand in Oregon. The party does not take positions on hot-button social issues that divide us. Instead, we encourage our candidates to follow their own conscience on such matters.
There were a few inaccuracies in the editorial — the most significant is the statement that the IPO does not run its own candidates. Not true. In 2014, IPO member Chuck Lee ran and received 44 percent of the vote for state representative in a gerrymandered district in Newberg. Drew Kaza ran against Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scapoose, for the state Senate. I ran for Yamhill County commissioner, losing 52 percent to 48 percent. Not much success, but when was the last time anyone saw minor party candidates getting better than 40 percent in partisan races in this state?
Those results were consistent with past election cycles. In 2010, for example, we had a candidate get 45 percent of the vote against state Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley. We had someone in Southern Oregon get about 40 percent of the vote against Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point.
Readers may also recall that in 2008, John Frohnmayer ran as an Independent against Gordon Smith before dropping out, and that Jim Torrey was registered as an Independent during his last run against Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy. Last time we checked, 35 local officials were IPO members in Oregon.
It is true that the IPO has done a great deal of cross-nominating of major party candidates — but in truth, it was the candidates beating down our door, and not the other way around. We have always regarded cross-nominations as a transitional strategy to allow us to get a foothold in the Legislature while we were bootstrapping our own candidate recruitment (which, as The Register-Guard pointed out, needs to be kicked up several notches).
Regarding the IPO’s “dismal participation rate” of 2 percent to 4 percent in primaries: It’s a fair cop. But if you look at participation rates for Internet elections around the country, or other minor party elections, our rates are pretty consistent with what they have done.
For example, in 2012, the Libertarian Party of Oregon conducted a statewide “vote-by-mail” primary in which about 4 percent of members participated. In 2002, the Democratic Party of Arizona spent millions conducting an Internet-based election that included voting kiosks, and had a turnout of 4.7 percent. The Republican Party held a presidential primary via the Internet in Alaska with a 2 percent turnout. Estonia pioneered Internet voting, and has had average participation rates of 3.7 percent.
Additionally, IPO members have the highest participation rate of any minor political party in most general elections. None of this is intended to dispute the notion that some of our members don’t know much about the party they have joined, or may have joined unintentionally. When that happens, we send them to the secretary of state’s online voter registration form and to their county clerk.
We encourage folks who are interested in joining the Independent Party, or who are interested in running for public office, to read our platform atwww.indparty.com/platform or to contact the party directly.
Sal Peralta of McMinnville is secretary of Oregon’s Independent Party.