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Primaries, conventions should be paid by the parties, not taxpayers.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Tonie Nathan For The Register-Guard

The Register-Guard editorial (June 6) on "Revitalizing the primary" describes a "top-two" system for primary elections. Although it is a better system than what we have now, it doesn't go far enough.

Why not do away with state-run primary elections altogether and apply preference voting to the general election? This would save both the state and the candidates much needed money.

A primary is designed to help a political party determine which candidate it wants to run for certain offices. Only party members may vote. Yet all taxpayers pay for these conventions and the cost of the primary election. This is not fair to taxpayers who are not members of the two political parties (some 39 percent of eligible voters).

Presently, third-party conventions and the cost of nominating independent candidates for the general election ballot must be paid by those who support their candidacies - and should be. Why don't the Republicans and Democrats also bear these same costs?

I believe we should end primary elections for the Democrats and Republicans and let each party pay for its own conventions as minor parties are required to do presently. This would save the state the cost of election ballots, processing, mailing and printing voters' pamphlets.

The candidates would be chosen by people of their parties who could meet, hear and judge them at the conventions. The candidates would not have to spend money for advertising to the general public, most of whom cannot vote for those outside their own district or party in a primary election. All candidates would be treated equally by the media (I assume), even those candidates of minor parties whom you never hear about presently but whose names will appear on the November ballot.

The idea of a primary election was originated by the state of Oregon in order to remove the pressure and manipulations of party bigwigs who controlled the parties years ago in "smoke-filled backrooms." But today, party activities are so scrutinized by media that back-room conniving and payoffs are unlikely to happen at conventions.

Of course, there are nonpartisan positions that must be chosen by the public such as city councilors and school boards. These candidates could still be nominated by parties or by independent organizations and receive votes in the general election. A voters' pamphlet would describe the candidates for all third parties and non-affiliated positions and would include any ballot measures.

Today there is no longer any reason for tax-supported political conventions. Private money should fund all political conventions where candidates can battle among their supporters for nomination. All candidates would receive equal exposure depending of the candidate's ability to fund advertising.

If preference voting is used for a single election in November and no candidate gets a majority, the top-two candidates would receive all second choice votes awarded them, resulting in a winner. But taxpayer funds should not be used for a nomination process benefitting only select private groups, as is currently the case in primary elections.

Tonie Nathan has been nominated many times for state and federal offices. She is the first woman in U.S. history to win an Electoral College vote as vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1972.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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