UCC Mainstream Online

Independent voters of Oregon seek primary vote

The group, abbreviated IVOO, is currently developing logos and other content for their organization.
Alex Ivey / Mainstream
The group, abbreviated IVOO, is currently developing logos and other content for their organization.

A growing number of UCC students, local citizens and a few faculty members have recently decided to start doing something about the lack of choices regarding the way our elected officials are selected.

They have formed a group called the “Independent Voters of Oregon.” Though the group is not affiliated with Umpqua Community College in any way, many of its members can be found across campus.

The independent voter movement is by no means just a Southern Oregon cause.  Half of the states in the U.S. have similar chapters, and the national movement is headquartered in New York.

The independent movement tends to support populist values.  “Some of us prioritize opening Oregon’s primary election to all citizens while others want to eliminate big money in politics, but in the end, we all want better representation in government,” Alex Ivey political science student and IVOO board member said.

In closed primaries voters must register with a party in order to vote for its candidates. Though the majority of Americans still associate themselves with Democrats or Republicans, third party movements are gaining steam.

Charles Young, professor of history/government at UCC and member of the Independent Voters of Oregon said, “We are seeing an ever-growing number of voters not identifying themselves with either the Republican or Democratic parties, to the extent that there are 42 percent of the electorate nationally, now in response to polls, no longer identify to either parties.”

The 2013 Gallup yearly average also showed that 42 percent of American voters did in fact identify themselves as independents.

While the national independentvoting.org website states that nearly 20 states currently have open primaries, the remaining 42 percent of the citizens who consider themselves independent are unable to participate in primary elections, leaving voters in 31 states with fewer alternatives in general elections.  This has led to lower turn-out and disillusionment among those with moderate political views.

Leaders of both political parties have, according to sources, been tone deaf or unwilling to address this core constituency creating a huge hole in the center of the political process.

The void left by moderates has left both major parties with hardliners less willing to reach across partisan lines.  The outcome has led to the U.S. Congress’ lowest approval rating in the history of the country.

In a November 2013 Gallup Poll, 9 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.

“The American public gave them an approval rating just barely above the approval rating of communism,” Young said. “That is terrible. Almost nine out of 10 dislike what Congress is doing.”

Some believe that this increase in independent voters is a result of American citizens’ hope for change. Gallup Polls are illustrating that the two major parties are not doing the job the majority of voters expect of them.

“Unless we join the Democratic or Republican Party, we have no input in the spring [elections]. So more and more Americans are disenfranchised simply because of a closed primary,” Young said.

While more and more voters continue to leave the two major parties, the IVOO believes it’s time to do what nearly 40 percent of the rest of the U.S. states have done, and that is open up Oregon’s primary elections.

“An open primary would help mitigate the influence that party loyalists have over representatives,” Ivey said.

Ivey added that it would “allow elected officials to appeal to the interest of all Americans with less fear of the wrath of their party.”

In order to get the proposed initiative in by July 2016 for the November elections, the Independent Voters of Oregon will need 87,000 validated signatures before Oregonians can vote on opening primaries.

The group believes that open primaries will result in a more effective government.

“Historically parties have done a lot of good for our country. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties have had some good legislative programs to help the country,” said Young. “But where they have been most successful is when they can bring bi-partisanship and support each other’s good ideas.”