Playing the Election Game


October 25, 2018


In this day of political adversity between parties, can a candidate from one major party honestly represent three major parties on the ballot? That is precisely what is happening. To make matters more confusing, the Secretary of State is proposing to add a Nonaffiliated Primary and having Minor Party Primaries.

In review, major parties hold primaries to nominate their candidate for the General Election. After the Primary Election, minor parties hold conventions to nominate their candidates to run in the General Election. Nonaffiliated voters who do not chose a party may only vote in the Primary if a major party elects to allow them to vote on the party ballot. Every voter gets a ballot in the General Election.

Currently, minor parties have more control over candidates representing their party than major parties. The only way a candidate can represent a minor party is if they are directly nominated at the party convention held after the primary with time to assess or endorse the competition. Why would they give up that control for the burden of financing a primary campaign? Major parties, however, have no control over which candidate represents the party. Regardless of their political views, any person can be a write-in on a primary ballot to represent a major party without being registered with that party.

The question is, can a Democrat Party candidate who professes open borders, wealth distribution, government control of lands, cap-and-trade taxation, gun regulations, single-payer healthcare, pro-choice, marriage between consenting adults, and other platform issues say with all honesty they will fairly represent without party bias Republicans who support an opposite platform; and vise-versus? Should a candidate from one party be allowed to represent another party on the ballot that they clearly don’t support?

There is a lot of dissatisfaction from the Republican Party why they can’t regain some equal footing in the legislature. When a major party doesn’t run a candidate in the Primary, ORS 249.046 allows that spot to be open for a free-for-all write-in candidate. The political game that some candidates play is to make contact with a few people from the opposing party and have them write-in their name on the opposing party’s ballot. One could ask these voters if they are properly registered to support a candidate contrary to their party platform, but there isn’t anything illegal, except deceiving their fellow party voters.

How effective is this game? Let’s see, this election there are 11 races where one candidate is running to represent all three of the major parties, and eight other races where a candidate represents two major parties. To be a write-in candidate, it only takes one write-in vote more than other write-in candidates, so one person could virtually nominate a candidate to represent a party.

Write-in candidates that are candidates for the opposite party is a gamesmanship maneuver to mislead voters. All write-in candidates are required to sign an acceptance, but it does not include a declaration of support for the party platform. The Secretary of State proposes that write-in candidates file an acceptance form by 8:00 pm on Election Day, which implies all write-in candidates are an orchestrated campaign and knows of their write-in status. This proposal is intended to eliminate the county clerk’s obligation to notify candidates and deal with fictitious characters, but doesn’t it eliminate voter choice?

Why does this happen? If the Republican Party were really interested in regaining an equal platform in the legislature, why isn’t there a candidate listed in the Primary for every open seat? Why leave the seat open for hijacking? Even if the candidate’s name is only a place holder that can be replaced if the candidate withdraws. Why give away the option to the opposing party? assesses the parties this way. “It is simple. The Left acts while the Right talks. The Left actually plays the game while the Right analyzes it…We are in desperate times in America and the sole reason for Donald Trump’s election was that Mom and Pop America were looking for a leader…a doer…someone who would actually FIGHT for what they believed in.”

Another legislative proposal is to move the primary from May to March, making it even more difficult to get a full ballot of candidates – thus it would increase the need for a placeholder candidate.

Why does the game succeed? One reason may be a failure in the party corporate structure. The political party is granted a nonprofit corporation status under ORS 248.004 with the powers under ORS 65.077, which requires a party consistent with law, to further the activities and affairs of the corporation. However, we should ask if the political party as a nonprofit corporation is doing its fiduciary responsibility to electors in not providing a full ballot of candidates. We could also ask if statutes allowing such write-in games really supports the party to operate as a nonprofit corporation in the best interest of its members when it allows the opposition to infiltrate by representing the party. What was the intent to allow write-in candidates?

Is the law with write-in option and the proposed changes losing sight of why we have parties and party platforms? The effect could be confusing to voters making it more difficult for voters to determine who will best represents them.

So, when you see more than one major party listed after a candidate, know that only the first party listed endorses that candidate. The other major parties weren’t asked and only a few people triggered the party to be listed. If the one candidate listed does not support your party platform or your values, voters can still send a message by a write-in option or leave that race blank, but don’t skip voting.  

Donna Bleiler, State Coordinator
Oregon Abigail Adams