Will Independent Party of Oregon retain major party status?

NW Spotlight_thb

by NW Spotlight

The Independent Party of Oregon (IPO) achieved major party status in February 2015. The IPO qualified by having enough registered IPO voters to reach the 5% threshold of the total voters registered for the November 2014 election.

The Statesman Journal reported at the time “Oregon has become the only state in the country with three major political parties,” with the IPO joining the Republican and Democratic parties as major political parties in Oregon.

Becoming a major party allowed the IPO to participate in primary elections.

Last August the IPO qualified as a major party for the 2016 elections. In this 2016 Oregon Primary, the IPO has two candidates for governor, two for US senator, one for US representative (3rd District), one for state treasurer (Chris Telfer), one for Oregon secretary of state, one for state senator and 9 for state representative.

The challenge of hanging on to major party status

When the IPO achieved major party status in February 2016, it cleared the 5% threshold by just 3 voters – Oregon had 2,188,286 voters in February 2015.

The Bend Bulletin reported last August “Party leaders believe it may be difficult to maintain major party status when the next secretary of state certifies parties after the 2016 election. That’s when the estimated 300,000 new voters will be registered automatically through the state’s pioneering universal voter registration law.” Sal Peralta, secretary and one of three main leaders of the Independent Party, was quoted “Once (automatic voter registration) kicks in, it almost certainly kicks us back to minor party status.”

Voter registration numbers from the two most recent months in 2016 are validating Peralta’s prediction so far.

The IPO had 5.01% of registered voters in February, but then dropped to 4.87% of registered voters in March and dropped further to 4.55% of registered voters in April.

UPDATE (h/t HBguy): Based on the reader comment from HBguy on some actions taken in the 2016 ‘short session’, we reached out to Sal Peralta, IPO Secretary. Sal confirmed the information from HBguy:

“It is true that Motor Voter threatens the existence of several third parties, including the Greens, Libertarians, etc.

It is true that the R’s and IPO worked to pass a ‘temporary fix’ from the impact of motor voter on the state’s small parties and it seems unlikely that the D’s would have allowed the full fixes to move if the Senate R’s had not dug in their heels. 

The Senate Republicans were absolute champions for the smaller parties during the special session.  Every one of them signed on to a letter asking the D leadership to move both bills to protect third parties.

The ‘fix’ basically sets the denominator for how ballot access is calculated to the 2014 ‘pre-motor voter’ level through the 2018 election.  However, some of the small parties have already fallen below the 2014 level for ballot access and because of motor voter will have to struggle just to get back to the 2014 membership levels so it was really just a partial stay of execution.

I suspect that IPO will retain major party status at least through 2018, but we still have some work to do.”

The bills were SB 1501 and SB 1599:

SB 1501 (Relating to calculation for maintaining status as a minor political party) – passed & signed by the governor

SB 1599 (Establishes July 1, 2015, as date for determination of total number of registered electors in this state for purpose of maintaining status as major political party through 2018 general election) – passed & signed by the governor