Those of us in Oregon need to vote against the “top two primary” election because it continues to use single-mark ballots, which are the source of the problem. The idea of an “open” primary is a nice idea, but primary elections — of either kind — need to use a better kind of ballot.
Instead of single-mark ballots, if the proposed law were written to use a simple “approval” ballot, where a voter can mark more than one candidate, then I would happily support a “top two primary,” because that would give us much fairer results. Alas, the proposed law refers to getting the “most votes,” and this kind of primitive election method — which is the same one we have now — is likely to cause wild outcomes. Worse, money will be used to make those wild outcomes likely.
For example, if there are two Republicans and two Democrats in the race, wealthy conservatives can quietly give money to support two additional Democratic candidates. Then vote splitting among the Democratic candidates will cause both of the Republican candidates to win! In other words, the runoff election would be between two Republican candidates just because there were “too many” Democratic candidates in the primary election.
If this sounds bizarre, consider that the whole reason we now have primary elections is that our long-time use of single-mark ballots was causing “general” elections to be won by whichever political party had fewer candidates. The original purpose of primary elections was to ensure that each political party had only one candidate in the general election, and then vote splitting was less likely to happen.
If Oregon’s top two primary proposal passes, it does offer one advantage. Soon the unfairness of vote splitting will become more obvious, and then we can finally focus attention on using better ballots and better counting methods.
But in the meantime this proposed law would make elections much less fair, not more fair.
Please vote against it.