Lane County Election Timing

What do you think of amending the Charter for Lane County so that the top-two county candidates always advance to the November election?

The current system of only advancing one candidate to the November election if a candidate receives a majority at the May election excludes many voters and is confusing.

What I’m proposing is the Board of County Commissioners refer a charter amendment to voters that would delete subsection (4) and part of subsection (5) of Section 27 of the charter:

Section 27. NOMINATION AND ELECTION OF COUNTY OFFICERS.
(4) When a candidate for nomination for an elective county office receives a majority of all votes cast at the primary election, that person’s name alone shall appear on the ballot for the general election.
(5) If no candidate at the primary election receives a majority of all votes cast, t
The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be placed on the general election ballot.

State law allows provisions of a home rule charter to change the way county officers are nominated and elected (ORS 249.008 and 249.091).

Since 2010, voter turnout in Lane County at May elections has been 33.7% lower on average than at November elections. Excluding a third of voters from choosing county officers when a candidate gets a majority in the May election is undemocratic.

LANE COUNTY VOTER TURNOUT
(Blue = May Elections, Green = November Elections)

It’s also confusing to voters who are more aware of the state and federal systems of primary nominating elections. In fact, May ballots are labeled “Primary” at the top in large-font bold-face type. The detail that the primary ballot functions as a general ballot when one candidate gets a majority for county officers is not well known among voters.

This proposed charter amendment would further the public interest by giving more voters a voice in choosing county officers. It would also eliminate confusion by always making the final decision about county officers at the November election.

Placing the measure on the November 2020 ballot would give the large presidential general election voter turnout a chance to give themselves greater say in the election of county officers.