Pick a Party: Your Guide to Oregon’s Political Parties

Oregon_voters Oregon_votersYou have more than two choices for a political party. In Oregon, there are three “major” parties which got at least 5% of the vote, and five “minor” parties which got at least 1% of the vote in the last election.

At last count, there were 2,186,971 registered voters in Oregon. If you have just turned 18, or have just moved to Oregon, you aren’t one of them, but you can be, even if you are a former convicted felon, or mentally impaired but not legally incompetent. Show an Oregon driver’s license, a paycheck stub, a utility bill, a bank statement, a government document, or proof of eligiblity under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens’ Absentee Voting Act or the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act. If all else fails, just provide the last four digits of your Social Security number. Oregon isn’t one of those states where they try to make voting difficult. In fact, if you have an Oregon driver’s license or Oregon ID card, you have been automatically registered to vote, thanks to our first-in-the-nation “Motor Voter” law.

Even so, more than 30% of eligible voters don’t actually vote.

So what are those eight parties? In alphabetical order:

The Constitution Party proposes to ban abortion, repeal most gun control laws, repeal most child protection laws, repeal most labor and consumer protection laws, abolish the income tax, return to the gold standard, “quarantine” people who are HIV positive and declare English the official national language. They are among the group of minor parties who share 1.7% of registered voters. They have never won any statewide races, but have elected Randy Fontenot Chief of Police in Eunice. (www.constitutionpartyoregon.net)

The Democratic Party has 37.8% of Oregon’s registered voters, making them the largest party in the state and one of the three classified as “major” parties. Their party platform endorses labor rights, access to health care, education, tax reform, environmentalism, and “good government.” Their biggest victory in recent years has been electing the first African-American president, and older voters will tell you that’s a big deal. They also hold the state’s governorship and majorities in the state legislature and senate. (www.dpo.org)

The Independent Party is not just all the people who register as “independent,” which means they don’t declare for any party. Five percent of Oregon voters are Independents with a capital I. That number is important becuae it makes them a “major” party under Oregon law, putting the Independents on a par with the elephant and the donkey. They want transparency in government, less influence by special interests, consumer protection, small businesses, and affordable college. (www.indparty.com)

The Libertarian Party wants a smaller, less powerful government that allows people much more personal autonomy. For instance, this party would eliminate corporate entities and protect the environment by holding individuals responsible. They would also eliminate public funding for education, believing private schools would fill the void. In short, they believe in free market solutions and that the place of government as an answer to social needs is a last resort.  Libertarian R. Mack Augenfeld on the City Council of Baker City is the only Libertarian currently holding elective office in Oregon, although they have held higher offices in the past.

The Pacific Green Party has, as you might expect, a platform strong on environmentalism and opposition to war, and also endorses feminism, respect for diversity, and social justice. The Greens are just 0.5% of Oregon voters, but
last November, Green support helped persuade the Portland
City Council to ban any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

The Progressive Party, formerly known as the Oregon Peace Party, is for campaign finance reform, a state bank like North Dakota’s, and “fair taxation” (Oregon has the fourth-highest taxes on working-class people and the lowest corporate taxes). They’d also like to abolish the Oregon State Senate, leaving the Oregon House of Representatives to write our laws (as in Nebraska). Their party emblem is an American buffalo. They’re another among the 1.7% of “other” parties, but their support helped keep Jeff Merkley in the U.S. Senate and Peter DeFazio in the House, and they are currently seeking to put campaign finance reforms on the ballot in Oregon. (www.progparty.org)

The Republican Party, the self-described “Grand Old Party” is one of Oregon’s major parties, with 29.9% of Oregon’s voters. It has a long history, going back to the years before the Civil War. Its biggest victory in recent years has been gaining control of both houses of Congress.  Their party policy is “limited government, lower taxes, and personal responsibility.” Their literature says they favor “accountability in spending… protecting our environment… and protecting our schools.” (www.oregonrepublicanparty.org)

The Working Families Party has a name that sounds a lot less threatening than, say, the Workers’ Party. Their platform is definitely centered on workers’ rights: a state bank, disability insurance and higher education for all, sustainable jobs, fair trade, and the right to organize.  Right now it is among the parties that share that 1.7%, but they have an impact, helping achieve paid sick days for all Oregonians. Good news for anyone who has a job, or who eats out. (www.workingfamilies.org)

Do none of these options appeal to you? You and 24.4% of Oregon voters evidently agree, because they’ve registered as non-affiliated, or what some call independents, with a lowercase “i.”

Want to start your own party? Anybody who can gather signatures of 1.5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or who can gather a thousand friends and drinking buddies for a caucus, can form their own party.

By John M. Burt