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.