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Deadline nears for Independent Party primary

Walt Wagner will vie for the Independent Party nomination for Crook County Judge
The Democratic and Republican primaries may have concluded last month, but local Independent Party members can elect their candidates from now until July 17.
   For the second time in its five year history, the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO) will hold a remote, internet-based primary election.
   In 2010, when the Independent Party held its first primary, no Crook County candidates ran for office. This time, Walt Wagner will vie for the Independent Party nomination for Crook County Judge.
   According to IPO Chair Linda Williams, each minor political party chooses its candidates by whatever process the party adopts. Most of them host a convention where party members make those decisions.
   The Independent Party chose to hold a primary because of its growing membership.
   “In my view, to get 75,000 members (together) presents barriers in travelling and participation,” Williams said. “So we decided to have a remote internet primary as opposed to an in-person convention.”
   To vote, Independent Party members log on to the IPO website and fill out a form that will help the party furnish them with the correct ballot for their area. Once they receive the ballot, they cast their vote electronically, and then receive a receipt with a scan code. The receipt helps the IPO verify the identity of the voter.
   “As a minor party, the state doesn’t supply any support at all,” Williams explained, “so we have no way of cross-referencing anyone with driver’s license or Social Security number or anything like that. So we are asking people to return the receipt with some sort of ID.”
   As far as candidate eligibility goes, the Independent Party does not limit who can run in its primary to members of its party only. Members of other minor parties can compete for an Independent Party nomination as can Republicans and Democrats. In fact, a major party candidate who already earned their party’s nomination in the May primary can run in the IPO primary. For example, in the Crook County Judge race, Mike McCabe, the winner of the Republican primary, could have run.
   “We are functioning under a system that is called cross-nomination,” Williams said. “We do give preference to Independent Party members, so if you are not an Independent Party member, there is an application process where you fill out a questionnaire that is related to issues that members have identified as important.”
   Those applications are then reviewed by an elected caucus, and they decide which non-Independent candidates can compete in the primary.
   The only people ineligible to run in the IPO primary are those major party candidates who lost during the May primary. Returning to the County Judge race example, Craig Brookhart and Brad Bartlett could not run.
   Once the Independent Party voters decide the outcome of each race, the winning candidates may file for office, and they will appear on the November ballot.
   As the IPO conducts its second online primary, Williams said they continue to learn as they go, and find ways to make the process work better. In particular, they are perfecting their outreach efforts. Since the IPO primary takes place after the May primary, but before the general election, many voters do not know about the election.
   The Independent Party has sent e-mail out to most of its members alerting them of the primary, and has mailed postcards to those without e-mail.
   “We’re talking about something that is at an odd time,” Williams said.