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Top-two primary makes ballot

3 other states have it; voters rejected it in 2008.


Oregon voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to follow California and Washington and advance the top two finishers in a primary, regardless of party affiliation.

Voters rejected a similar measure in 2008.

But the secretary of state announced Tuesday that the latest measure has qualified with 66 percent of the 138,886 signatures accepted for sampling. The 91,716 total is above the minimum 87,213 required.

"Voters all across Oregon want to see more choices in their elections and less gridlock in our government," says Jim Kelly, an Eastern Oregon rancher and the measure's chief petitioner.

"An open primary system will provide over 650,000 independent voters and hundreds of thousands of voters who live in districts that only elect members of the other party a powerful opportunity to finally let their voices be heard."

Kelly was the founder of Rejuvenation Inc. of Portland, a manufacturer of lighting and other household fixtures, before he sold the company to Sonoma-Williams in 2011.

The measure would change Oregon's primary election, which has existed for more than a century. Under it, only registered Democrats can choose Democratic nominees, and registered Republicans can choose Republicans. Under a 1989 law, the major parties can choose to open their primaries to voters not affiliated with either party, but the parties have done so only a couple of times.

The change would apply to all offices now elected on a partisan basis, including Congress, other than the presidency of the United States.

Opposition is expected from political parties, which also opposed the 2008 measure.

Washington state implemented a top-two primary in 2008, and California in 2012. Louisiana is the only other state with it.

The top-two primary joined an Oregon version of the Equal Rights Amendment for women as initiatives on the Nov. 4 ballot, which already has two other measures.

Awaiting verification of signatures are proposed initiatives for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use, and for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

A 24-member citizen panel will question advocates and opponents of the primary-election measure, and draw up statements of fact and arguments for and against the measure. It was announced Wednesday that the measure will be one of two on this year's ballot to be chosen by the Citizens' Initiative Review Commission for panel review. The other will be the GMO measure, if it qualifies for the ballot.

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Adds announcement that primary-election measure is one of two chosen Wednesday by the Citizens' Initiative Review Commission for study by one of two 24-member panels