Knute Buehler: Proposed Election Reforms
Today, across from Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, I announced my proposed election reforms. I chose this spot because I spent many hours at Pioneer Courthouse Square gathering signatures for the initiatives I’ve worked on.
I’ve worked for two decades on reforming our campaign system, from campaign financing to ballot access. We need to take concrete steps to empower more Oregonians, provide meaningful campaign finance reform, and ensure that Oregon’s election system is the best in the nation.
1) Campaign Finance Reform: We need to stop the financial arms race in our elections. Running for office is expensive, but Oregonians want to know that their candidates are not unduly influenced by campaign contributions from special interests. I support the following reforms:
• Voluntary spending limits in order to appear in the Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet. A candidate may choose to spend more, but by doing so they lose the opportunity to be in the top source of voter information, the Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet. Specific spending limits would be set through legislative hearings and would be indexed for growth from cycle to cycle.
• Increase transparency. I support enforcement of the transparency portion of Measure 47. The measure would have forced advertisements funded by independent expenditures to disclose the names and businesses of large donors. There is no reason the Secretary of State should not be enforcing this today.
• Make political candidates list their 5 largest donors on all television and print advertising.
2) Ballot Access: Provide greater access to the Primary Election for non-affiliated
voters and minor parties.
• Provide all minor parties access to the state sponsored May primary ballot through a ‘minor party ballot’ listing all candidates for the minor parties. All those registered with a minor party would receive the same ballot to decrease administrative costs.
• Facilitate an easy process for non-affiliated voters to participate in the major and minor party primaries, provided the parties elect to open them. This last election, I led the Republican Party to choose to open its primary, but the Secretary of State made the process of obtaining a ballot cumbersome for those qualified voters.
3) Independent Redistricting: We should end the days of politically motivated redistricting. A balanced, independent commission of citizens should draw Oregon’s legislative boundaries, not politicians. Our neighbors in California and Washington have successfully set up independent redistricting panels and provide good examples for how it can be done.
4) Ballot Initiative Reform: The Secretary of State should strive to help Oregonians
put initiatives on the ballot. Unfortunately, under Kate Brown, the opposite is true.
Today, it is so expensive that, for the most part, only corporations, unions and large
organizations can do it.
• Eliminate unnecessary ‘gotcha’ rules that have nothing to do with fraud such as the practice of discarding entire sheets of signatures for an error in the gatherer’s signature or date.
• Eliminate secretive directives and rule changes. All rules should be adopted by the proper administrative rules process, so citizens have input into them.
• Establish a mandatory “Chief Petitioner Boot Camp” to train chief petitioners to properly follow the laws and regulations.
• Create a system to provide free advice and support from the Elections Division for those campaigns that use it.
5) Audit Vote-By-Mail: I fully support Vote by Mail and will not get rid of it. We should also ensure that Oregon’s election system is the best in the nation. We should strive for 100% participation and 0% fraud. Concerns about voter fraud and voter access are constantly expressed. Regardless of the validity of the problems, many voters are losing confidence in our system. We should audit our elections system to find out, once and for all, if any problems exist. If any are identified, we will then know exactly what needs to be fixed. Some initial areas of audit focus would include:
• Conflicting laws and regulations that pre-date vote by mail
• ‘Secret shopper’ type voters that would test the system for vulnerabilities
• Ensuring Oregon laws are up to the standards set in the federal ‘Help America Vote Act’