SALEM - 3/3/2016 - Legislation to grant the state's major and minor political parties a two-year reprieve from the effects of Oregon's new Motor Voter law cleared a final legislative hurdle yesterday, when they passed on a vote of 51-6 (SB 1501) and 46-10 (SB 1599) in a late night session of the Oregon House Wednesday (3/2).
Small parties in Oregon are threatened by the passage of Oregon's new voter registration system, which is expected to add more than 400,000 mostly non-affiliated voters into the system prior to the 2016 general election.
Prior to the adoption of Motor Voter, 75 percent of voters joined a political party. Under the Motor Voter system only 9 percent are joining political parties. This shift is due to changes in how the state processes new voter registrations.
Under the previous system, voters were allowed to select a political party at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they filled out a registration card. Under the new system voters are automatically enrolled without their knowledge as non-affiliated and must return a card within 21 days to either opt-out or be enrolled in a political party.
Because ballot access for most Oregon political parties is based on their share of the overall electorate at the time of the 2016 election, several Oregon political parties including Independent, Working Families, Progressive and Constitution parties were threatened with losing ballot access in 2018 as a result of the new law.
"This is a welcome band-aid to a crisis situation for the state's smaller parties," said IPO Secretary, Sal Peralta. "We are especially grateful to Senator Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) for getting this on the agenda for the special session, and to all of the legislators who helped to pass this temporary fix."
Peralta submitted testimony on behalf of the Independent Party urging legislators to also convene a work group to study the issue of ballot access in Oregon and make recommendations for a more permanent solution at the 2017 session. That sentiment was echoed by Representatives Knute Buehler (R- Bend) and Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) in comments during the house vote.
The bills passed 28-0 in the Oregon Senate last Friday (2/26) and now head to the desk of Governor Kate Brown.