The third-largest political party in Oregon is answering the question: Can political parties conduct their own primary elections? The short answer: Yes, and the party is using this freedom to combine open primaries with a new alternative voting method. 

The Independent Party of Oregon lost its major party status ahead of the 2020 election cycle. However, instead of resigning itself to the sidelines while the major parties conduct their primaries, the party is using its resources to administer its own election. Just as it has in the past, the Independent Party of Oregon is also opening its doors to the state’s largest registered voting bloc, unaffiliated voters.

“They’re the largest group of voters and the most disenfranchised group of voters and they deserve to be heard,” commented Sal Peralta, the party’s secretary, to the Salem Reporter.

Oregon law allows the parties to decide whether or not to allow registered unaffiliated voters to participate in the primaries. However, the Republican and Democratic Parties have long locked out unaffiliated voters from these critical taxpayer-funded elections.

The Independent Party of Oregon will not only include its own candidates on its ballot, but qualified candidates across party lines. For instance, all 3 active presidential campaigns will be on the ballot: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.

The party will also make history by being the first to hold binding elections using a new voting method called STAR voting. STAR stands for Score Then Automatic Runoff. 

STAR voting can be simply explained as voting for candidates like one would rate a product on Amazon. Voters can assign each candidate a rating between 0-5 stars -- indicating not only preference but how voters view each candidate. The winner is the majority favorite between the top two candidates.

"We are thrilled to be the first organization to conduct a binding election using STAR Voting," said Independent Party Co-Chair Rob Harris. 

"Our hope is to use our election to show voters that how we vote in America is not set in stone. It is a matter of choice. The current system has led to a divided and dysfunctional government. We would like to show people that other, better, options are available."

The Independent Party of Oregon has partnered with the Equal Vote Coalition, which is the preeminent advocate for STAR voting in Oregon and nationwide. 

“This is truly a milestone in election reform, continuing a long tradition of trailblazing electoral efforts in the state of Oregon,” said Mark Frohnmayer, founder of the Equal Vote Coalition. 

“The STAR Voting method, invented here in Oregon, offers best-in-class representational accuracy, simplicity, familiarity and expressiveness for voters, as well as transparency of election results. STAR Voting eliminates the spoiler effect and allows voters to honestly express their true preferences without fear of wasting their votes.”

Voting in the Independent Party of Oregon’s primary will be open from April 28th to May 12th, the official date of the publicly-administered primary elections. The party says it will use the internet to deliver ballots.

Shawn Griffiths

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