Removes Option to Elect Precinct Committeepersons – Oregon 2017 HB2571 Testimony

To: House Committee on Rules, Oregon Legislative Assembly

Re: HB2571 Removes option for major political parties to elect precinct committeepersons at primary election.

I support HB2571 with an amendment that requires counties to insert a flyer produced by each major county political party in the corresponding partisan primary ballots. It’s in the the public interest to encourage broadly-based participation in party organizations. Without any outreach to voters registered with a party, the party organizations could become controlled by insiders again as they were before the reforms of the early 20th Century.

The flyer could be used by parties as a call to convention or a call for PCPs. The current precinct committeeperson (PCP) elections provide outreach to some degree. Inserting a flyer could be a more effective way to encourage involvement in parties than PCP elections by reducing the current barrier to entry that filing for PCP positions in February creates. Parties would be free to innovate as to the best way to use the flyer and would be in competition with each to attract PCPs to help their respective parties.

Removing the option for major political parties to elect PCPs would be cost saving measure for counties. With more positions than candidates in most cases, PCP elections are much like a Cub Scouts pinewood derby where every kid gets a trophy. The cost to taxpayers of compiling the ballots and counting the results isn’t justified because the elections don’t provide a meaningful choice and aren’t competitive. In most cases, voting has not effect on the outcome.

In addition, the current apportionment of PCP positions based on electors along with at-large elections dilutes and debases the value of party member votes. Disproportionate influence is given to areas where a party membership is lowest. This may be contributing to the decline in major party membership seen in recent decades as fewer voters see their values and interests represented.

Please support HB2571 with the amendment proposed above.

Small Donor Funded Elections – Oregon 2017 HB2578 Testimony

To: House Committee on Rules, Oregon Legislative Assembly

Re: HB2578 Establishes Small Donor Funded Elections program to enable candidates for state office to receive 6-to-1 match on small dollar donations.

Public funding of election campaigns is a good way to reduce the risk of policy capture by private interests. Unchecked, policy capture can erode good governance, equal opportunity, social cohesion, and trust in government. Public policy should not be for sale to the highest bidder.

Money in politics is necessary to allow campaigns to be heard and to foster competitive elections. However, private money can be used by powerful special interests to exert undue influence on the policy process. Even without bribery, private money can slant policy outcomes toward vested interests against the broader public interest. Creating a level playing field also increases the chances of electing persons of high competence and integrity to office.

Public campaign funding complements the ORESTAR disclosure system and government ethics regulations deterring undue influence and promoting transparency. It’s also compatible with the strong free speech provisions of both the Oregon Constitution and the United States Constitution by leveling-up funding instead of trying to level-down funding by restricting protected free speech.

After addressing any concerns raised in the public hearing or by legislators, please vote to recommend passage of HB2578.

Legislative Districts of Senators – Oregon 2017 HJR6 Testimony

To: House Committee on Rules, Oregon Legislative Assembly

Re: HJR6 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to increase number of Senators serving in Legislative Assembly to 36 and modifying Senate legislative districts to be coterminous with county boundaries.

The provision in HJR6 that states “The county from which a Senator is elected shall constitute the legislative district of the Senator” is contrary to the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) ruled:

By holding that, as a federal constitutional requisite, both houses of a state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis, we mean that the Equal Protection Clause requires that a State make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts, in both houses of its legislature, as nearly of equal population as is practicable. (page 577)

Whatever the means of accomplishment, the overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the State. (page 579)

Changing the apportionment of the Oregon State Senate to one senator per county would create a malapportionment ratio between Multnomah County and Wheeler County of 581 using figures from the 2010 Census. This enormous population inequality and unequal weighting of votes among senate districts would not comply with U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Reynolds, which has not been overturned.

Electing Precinct Committeepersons – Oregon 2017 SB211 Testimony

To: Senate Committee on Rules, Oregon Legislative Assembly

Re: SB211 Establishing Procedures for Electing Precinct Committeepersons.

Oregon precinct committeeperson elections function as volunteer recruiting campaigns for county political parties. With more positions than candidates in most cases, precinct committeepersons are elected without competition. Voters lack any meaningful choice or influence because voting can’t change the outcome. Rarely is a listed candidate not elected. Therefore, the method that Oregon uses to elect precinct committeepersons is substantially the same as a call to convention.

The proposed changes in SB211 don’t really alter the dynamics of precinct committeeperson elections. Reducing the number of precinct committeepersons will increase competition in a few precincts, but not all. The new rules on write-in candidates will likely reduce the number of precinct committeepersons.

Even when precinct committeeperson elections are competitive, several aspects dilute and debase the value of voting such as at-large elections and malapportionment. At-large elections bias results toward the dominate faction excluding minority interests. This may contribute to the decline in major party membership seen in recent decade as fewer voters see there values and interests represented. The seats are also apportioned by electors not party members. This gives the disproportionate influence to areas where a party membership is lowest. With the adoption of postal voting for all elections in Oregon, precincts are no longer relevant political units.

I recommend that the office of precinct committeeperson be eliminated to reduce the costs of administration and be replaced with a call to convention. A much lower cost, a one page flyer could be inserted into primary election ballots produced by the political parties calling registered party members to the county convention. This would likely result in more volunteers for political parties at much lower cost to taxpayers.