April 23, 2020

For the first time in history, STAR (Score the Automatic Runoff) voting will be used in a binding election. The Independent Party of Oregon (IPO), conducting its own primary in 2020, will use the new voting method for president and other state offices.

What is STAR voting? Think about how consumers rate products on Amazon. They give the product a rating between 0 and 5 stars, which indicates not only whether or not they recommend the product, but to what degree they like or dislike it.

That is essentially how STAR voting works. Voters rate each candidate on a scale of 0-5 stars and then the winner is the majority favorite between the top two candidates.

Mark Frohnmayer, founder of the Equal Vote Coalition, praised the IPO for its decision.

“What this represents is the removal of that final obstacle to getting STAR voting implemented in a lot of different places, and that is someone has to do it first,” he said.

The Equal Vote Coalition ran a campaign to get STAR voting implemented in Lane County, Oregon, in 2018. The initiative barely failed. However, Frohnmayer says he and his group didn’t let it slow them down:

“One of the main obstacles to any new reform is that it has not been enacted. Having this opportunity to have STAR voting in a real election with real results, including the presidential preference election, is a big deal.”

The IPO, which endorsed the Lane County initiative in 2018, made the decision to go with STAR voting in their elections in early April, and have combined it with an open system where independent voters and registered party members can participate.

"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."

Oregon has a closed primary system. However, state law gives recognized major parties the option to allow registered unaffiliated voters to request a party’s primary ballot. The Republican and Democratic Parties, however, have long locked out these voters.

However, as a result of Oregon’s motor voter law, the number of independent voters has skyrocketed as many voters are automatically registered unaffiliated of any political party. In fact, registered unaffiliated voters nearly match the number of registered Democrats.

That leaves hundreds of thousands of voters -- the second largest voting bloc in the state -- left out the taxpayer-funded primary process. 

Frohnmayer says the IPO’s continued inclusion of independent voters combined with STAR voting gives voters outside the major parties “a fantastic choice” in 2020. The party’s ballot will include candidates across parties and political ideologies for president and other state offices.

The party will use the state’s registered voter data file to ensure that voters receive a party ballot and will conduct a digital audit to verify the authenticity of the results. Voters who wish to participate in the primary will receive the ballot online, and can submit it between April 28 and May 12.

Frohnmayer says on top of its use in the 2020 IPO primary, the Equal Coalition is trying to get STAR voting on the ballot in Eugene, Lane County, and Troutdale.

Shawn Griffiths

Click here to read on Independent Voter News.

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