Minor parties sue Secretary of State over party labels

Progressive Party Sues Secretary of State to Preserve Party Labels on Ballots
By Oregon Progressive Party,

On August 30, the Progressive Party of Oregon, Working Families Party of Oregon, and State Senator Larry George (R) filed suit in Marion County Circuit Court to stop the Secretary of State from dramatically altering Oregon’s general election ballot by removing from it all party names next to the names of candidates.

The text of the complaint, motion for preliminary injunction, and all related documents are available at http://progparty.org/abbs

The Secretary of State just adopted a rule that, instead of printing party names next to the names of each candidate nominated by that party, the ballots will instead show only “three character designataions” for each party.

“This change is clearly illegal,” said Dan Meek, attorney for the Progressive Party. “Oregon statutes have always required that the `name’ of the political party appear on the ballot, not some incomprehensible 3-letter abbreviation.” “Party names provide important information to voters,” said Linda Williams, the other lead attorney in the case. “While most people will know what DEM and REP mean, most will not know what PGP or LBT or WFP means, not to mention PRO and CON.” These are the abbreviations for minor parties that the Secretary of State plans to use on the ballots.

“There is no reason to do this,” said Meek. “The ballot software used by the counties can print the names of the parties next to the candidates, and the Legislature fully heard from the clerks before adopting a law in 2009 allowing a candidate nominated by more than one party to have next to her name on the ballot the names of up to 3 nominating parties.”

As noted in the memorandum in support of the motion for a preliminary injunction:

Imagine Val Voter opens his general election ballot in November 2010 and looks over the candidates. He sees next to some of their names these unfamiliar abbreviations: PRO, CON, WFP, LBT, PGP, IND, and NAV. In the 1st Congressional District, he sees that one candidate (Chris Henry) has the PRO label, while another candidate (Don LaMunyon) has the CON label. What is the PRO candidate for? What is the CON candidate against?

Val Voter then sees many candidates have the labels “DEM” or “REP.” He thinks he knows what those labels mean, but notices that in the race for state representative, one candidate has “REP” after her name. Maybe she is the incumbent “representative”? “CON” might mean Conservative . But what is a PGP? It sounds like some sort of street drug. Is it that new ProGressive Party? What is an LBT, some sort of sandwich with lettuce, bacon, and tomato? Is NAV the Navajo Party, or was the candidate in the Navy? And WFP? These labels are not helping Val make his decisions. Instead, they are confusing and distracting. He has never before seen these 3-letter labels on his Oregon ballot. Nor has any voter in Oregon ever seen such 3-letter labels. Defendant’s action will change the appearance of ballots for the first time and contrary to the legislative mandate.

Val’s difficulty in making sense out of the ballot, just when he is about to make his voting choices, would be the result of a new rule, OAR 165-007-0320, adopted by the Secretary of State. This rule entirely contradicts ORS 254.135(3), which mandates that the general election ballot display party names opposite the names of the candidates nominated by those parties. For 119 years parties have been shown on state-printed ballot with their names (full words). Defendant’s action will change the appearance of ballots for the first time, contrary to the legislative mandate.

Plaintiffs Progressive Party and Working Families Party (hereinafter the “Minor Parties”) and State Senator Larry George seek declaratory and injunctive relief for themselves, and for all political parties, candidates, and voters in Oregon from the decision of the Secretary of State to use 3-letter combinations in lieu of the parties’ names, as follows:

Party Name
OAR 165-007-0320 Abbreviation





Pacific Green



Working Families