April is Earth Month. As a child growing up here, I remember April was always the rainy month. A few days ago, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning of fire dangers for most of Northwest Oregon. Addressing the impacts of climate change will occupy the rest of our lives on many fronts, from the economy to migration to health care. Democrats have advocated for addressing both the causes and impacts of climate change, along with other progressive policies, but our advocacy means little unless we also take action. That’s why the theme for this month’s Digest is Taking Action.
A forward-thinking platform and progressive resolutions are not enough. We must work to make sure our bold ideas are enacted. Long-time member, Robert Reynolds, has been working for years with fellow Democrats to help bring our legislators into greater alignment with our platform. Recently, newly elected State Representative Khanh Pham supported our plank on Public Banks when she sponsored HB 2743 supporting municipal banks. And this month, the Comms Team, working with Bobbi Yambasu, created a new Action Alerts newsletter headed up by Comms volunteer, Britton Taylor, to alert members when important legislation needs our support and how we can help. In MultDems, we’re taking action in many ways every day to move our city, county, state and nation forward.
Read our April articles to learn more, and look for an opportunity soon to subscribe to our Action Alerts. As always, thanks for doing your part to take action and make a difference!
Last year’s Celsi Celebration (the Multnomah County Democrats’ signature fundraising event of the year) was cancelled due to the pandemic. Though a “Beyond Celsi” virtual auction raised some of the anticipated funds, it was a down year for the organization’s fundraising. We need all hands on deck to make the 2021 Celsi Celebration come back strong!
June 26th is the date for the 2021 Big Tent Party Celsi Celebration Fundraiser, with both in-person and virtual options. More details about the event will be coming soon, but volunteers and donations are welcome now.
The Celsi Celebration was named for Dick Celsi, who served as Chair of the Multnomah County Democrats during the 1970s and Chair of the State Democratic Party during the 1980s and into the 1990s. The Celsi committee is now accepting nominations for this year’s awards, and https://celsi.multdems.org/ has more information and regular updates. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join the event committee or donate items for the auction.
March is women’s history month, and four years ago, women took to the streets to lead protests across the US that set a tone of resistance against an autocratic president who sought to undermine our democracy. Four years later, voters rejected the trend toward autocratic rule in favor of restoring respect for the rule of law. In Georgia, Stacy Abrams spent years preparing the ground game that flipped that state blue to establish a united government under Democrats for what may be a brief window of opportunity.
This month, in honor of the leadership of the women who pushed back against authoritarianism, the March Digest focuses on how we move forward to strengthen democracy. We have worked too hard and come too far to not go the rest of the way and pass legislation that stops voter suppression and protects democracy for future generations. HB1, the For the People Act in Congress, goes a long way to resolve many of the issues. Closer to home, the Election Integrity Caucus of the state Demoratic party released its Alternative Voting Methods Report calling out STAR Voting as the best popular alternative voting method in Oregon and calling for it’s adoption statewide.
In this issue, we will look at some of the steps we still need to take to restore and assure election integrity, including voting reform, and we’ll spotlight some of the women in our local party who are leading the charge to make sure aspiring autocrats never have a chance to gain a foothold in this country again.
Here in Multnomah County, Democrats are leading the way on voting reform. We now use a preference voting system with an automatic runoff. It’s called STAR Voting, and it eliminates vote splitting, assures a winner preferred by the majority and enables voters to vote their conscience, knowing their vote will always go to the candidate they prefer most. After 18 months of study, the state party Election Integrity Caucus released its Alternative Voting Methods Report, in which STAR Voting emerged as the method that best met criteria called for in our state party platform. It’s a game-changer for democracy and we are leading the way. STAR stands for Score Then Automatic Runoff. It’s familiar and easy for voters, and we’ve now used it successfully several times to elect officers and delegates in local party elections. In both recent elections, candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities did well. From a field of over 100 candidates in the January Organizing Meeting, 20 candidates who were people of color or from other marginalized communities won 25 of 39 delegate positions (64% of the seats.), showing that STAR did not disadvantage minority candidates in that race. Similarly, at the CD3 Committee Meeting, while representing less than half the overall candidates, candidates from traditionally marginalized communities won 60% of the delegate and alternate positions. For those who have questions about STAR Voting at the 2021 Reorg, we’ve gathered some Q&A from experts who watched the elections.
On Sunday, the CD3 Committee hosted a meeting to elect new delegates and alternatives to the DPO Standing Committees. The committee used STAR Voting to run the election, and the voting system worked well to smoothly and quickly elect a group of candidates supported by the majority of all voters. Two months earlier, in January, the Multnomah County Democrats used STAR Voting to elect officers, as well as SCC Delegates and Alternates. That meeting had numerous interruptions and got sidetracked into long discussions, but the actual voting process (the act of voting and tabulating results) went smoothly and quickly. Indeed, had we been using the former system, the meeting could have taken even longer!
While most people felt comfortable using the STAR ballot and voting required minimal instructions, it is worth noting that giving proper instructions for any new voting system is important. In both sets of elections, candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities did well. From a field of over 100 candidates in the January Organizing Meeting, 20 candidates who were people of color or from other marginalized communities beat the other 80% of candidates to win 25 of 39 delegate positions (64% of the seats.), showing that STAR did not disadvantage minority candidates in that race. Similarly, at the CD3 Committee Meeting, while representing less than half the overall candidates, candidates from traditionally marginalized communities won 60% of the delegate and alternate positions.
For those who have questions about STAR Voting at the 2021 Reorg, we’ve gathered some Q&A from experts who watched the elections.
Some Questions & Answers about the 2021 MultDems Reorg
Q: The last election for MultDems used a different voting method. What was the new system? A: In September of 2019 Multnomah County Democrats voted by a supermajority to adopt STAR Voting for all internal elections with three or more candidates. Officers are now elected using single-winner STAR Voting, and for multi-winner races such as for State Central Committee and congressional district delegates Bloc STAR is used.
The new system was first used in a Party Reorganization (regular election for party offices) on January 23rd, 2021.
Q: Is there a voter guide for how to vote in the new system? A: Yes. This link to the guide on how to vote with STAR Voting from the Equal Vote Coalition can be found here, in both English and Spanish. These resources are available in additional languages on request by emailing email@example.com
Q: Results were gender balanced. What does that mean and how does it work? A: All multi-winner elections for Multnomah County Democrats are gender balanced, with neither male or female identifying candidates able to win more than ½ + 1 of the seats for each delegation. All candidates are listed on the same ballot, and non-binary candidates are able to win a seat anytime they have the most support, regardless of gender.
Gender balancing is an additional step that’s performed after the STAR Voting election is tallied. The election is tallied according to STAR Voting, and a candidate ranking is generated, showing who came in 1st place, 2nd place etc. Gender balanced winners are then selected by going down this list alternating between male and female candidaets and electing non-binary candidates any time they are at the top of the list.
Q: Why did the meeting take so long? A: This was the first electronic Reorg meeting hosted by the Multnomah County Democrats, which is the largest county party in the state. The meeting was 100% staffed by volunteers, and included over 320 participants. There were some significant technological hurdles with credentialing, volunteer coordination, and tech support for participants, as well as the logistics of emailing multiple resources to so many people, both before and during the meeting.
Party bylaws are clear that participants should not be automatically muted, but with so many people on the call, waiting to be called on was challenging in some cases, due to the volume of participants.
A few issues came up with technology and a few mistakes were made, including a mix up with the sample ballot and real ballot links, and incorrect voting links were distributed a couple of times. Correcting the mistake ended up requiring the body to debate and then approve proposed solutions and extended timelines.
Mistakes happen and democracy can be messy, but the meeting length didn’t have anything to do with STAR Voting. Results were available following voting within the expected time frame.
Q: What takeaways were there from the Bloc STAR election outcomes? A:In the MultCo election, diversity won big and polarizing candidates from both factions appear to have done worse than in the past, though that is an inherently subjective determination. Here are the diversity results. “From a field of 100+ candidates, 20 diverse candidates (all but two,) won 25 of 39 delegate positions (64%.)”
Q: Slates encouraged voters to give their candidates 5 stars. Did that give them an advantage? A: The old system, Bloc Plurality is notorious for being SUPER gameable. Factions who all voted as a block for a slate, and voted for exactly the number of candidates as the seats available, got a huge advantage in the old system. That’s why slates have historically been such a big deal. Individuals who didn’t vote with the block were at a huge disadvantage with the old system.
Bloc STAR mitigates those issues, making slates less powerful, and making it less important to vote for the exact number of candidates running. Of course getting good endorsement will always be helpful, and of course voters will ideally score at least as many candidates as there are seats, but if there are 10 seats you do not need to give 5 stars to all 10 candidates, unless there are 10 you truly love. You should show your honest preference order.
Q: Is Bloc STAR vulnerable to strategic voting? A: With any new system people experiment with how to game it. With Bloc STAR the key to good strategy is the same as in single-winner. Give your favorites 5, your worst candidates 0, and show your preference order and level of support for the rest. In short, honesty is the best policy.
Even if voters are strategic in Bloc STAR the results will be much more representative, and those who vote strategically will have less of an edge. No voting method can eliminate all possibilities for strategic voting, but in STAR Voting strategic voting is not incentivized or effective.
Attempting strategic voting in STAR can backfire, and most voters will get the best results if they are honest. For example, a voter who only loves 9 candidates but who strategically decides to give 5 stars to 21 candidates because there are 21 winners for SCC is giving up their power to have a say in which of those 21 will win, or in what order. If you honestly just want any of the 21 to win that is an honest good vote. If you want your favorites to win the top spots then you should only give top scores to your favorites. A good vote in this situation would be to give a top score to your 9 favorites, and then give other candidates you hope will win 4 stars, or the number of stars you think they deserve showing your honest preference order.
Q: Do people who give less high scores have less power? A: No. Your scores will help your favorites pull ahead of the rest. If your have lots of favorites give lots of high scores, if you only have one favorite then only give your top score to them. It’s up to you to decide what your honest vote looks like. Showing your preference order and level of support for the candidates helps ensure that your scores help the best candidates advance to the runoff and hopefully win each seat.
A key point here is that in the runoff, each ballot is one vote. Whether voters give lots of 5s or just a few your final vote will go to the finalist you prefer. The runoff is binary, and it actually will correct for any strategic voting or distortion from normal variations in voting behavior, to the extent possible.
Q: Do we propose voting like this, with multi-winner Bloc STAR and lots of winners, for governmental elections? A: No. The SCC elected 21 delegates off one ballot. That’s not a situation we ever see in Oregon governmental elections. Having this many winners in a single governmental election would compromise geographic representation, so it’s not recommended.
Multi-winner bloc voting may be a good option for a few limited situations where a small multi-member district makes sense, but in general At-Large elections are not recommended for a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of this FAQ.
This system makes good sense for delegate elections and is a big step up from what we had before. In the future Proportional representation could be another good option worth considering.
Q: Would Bloc STAR be good for a primary? A: Yes. Bloc STAR would be the best choice for a top 5 primary as it would eliminate vote splitting and accurately advance the top 5 most viable candidates.
With STAR voting primaries could be eliminated entirely, or they could advance the top 10 or top 5. We like 5 when a primary is needed, but in most cases it’s better to just skip the primary, which is more inclusive, cheapest, and has real advantages for reducing the influence of money in politics.
The No More Costly Walkouts (NMCW) coalition includes groups like: The Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Basic Rights Oregon, SEIU, Planned Parenthood Action PAC, and many others. I am reaching out to members of the Multnomah County Democratic Party with updates on our efforts to restore democracy and enact progressive change in Oregon.
You have likely heard that recently the Oregon Senate Republicans walked out for one day. They continued to show up to Committees and arrived for floor sessions in later weeks. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Senate is currently holding in-person floor sessions only once a week on Thursdays, so Senate Republicans can delay Legislative activity for an entire week while only refusing to appear once for one afternoon.
More recently this past Thursday a rule in the State Senate was up for a vote which would have made the Senate’s rules on fines for walkouts match the State House’s rules (Page 3, 3.03 Section (4)). The Senate Republicans hadn’t arrived one full hour after the floor session was set to begin, and the rule change was withdrawn from consideration. Competing press releases were then sent.
The press have harshly questioned these actions, with The Oregonian (article behind paywall) saying that this “…has become an increasingly common tactic by the party that holds a minority of seats in both chambers of the Legislature” and that “…their walkout so early in the session and without substantive matters up for floor votes raises questions about how much the Legislature will be able to achieve in its COVID- and wildfire-relief focused session.”
This hearing will not be a very long one, so we do not recommend trying to testify on the 18th, but it is critically important that the Committee receive written testimony in favor of these bills. We will follow up with details in the coming days about how folks can do so.
Please feel free to spread the word and send this email to anyone in your activist networks who would be interested! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call, email or text anytime.
Democratic Precinct Committee Persons (PCPs) from House District 47 selected three candidates for the Multnomah County Commissioners to choose from to fill the legislative vacancy in House District 47.
The candidates, in order of preference, are:
PCPs were required by Oregon statute to select at least three candidates. The names of the three candidates will be forwarded to the Multnomah County Commissioners in ranked order. The Multnomah County Commissioners will meet this month to select one of these candidates to fill the vacancy.
For more information about the nomination process, visit dpo.org/HD47.
Want to run? Local elections deadlines are coming up fast!
Seats are open for the May election, across Multnomah County, including school boards, community college boards and more. The Campaign Committee asks you to think about running, and to reach out to Democratic neighbors and friends who can represent us well and ensure excellent, safe, and equitable service for our county’s residents, families, staff and students. Could this be you?
The Multnomah County filing deadline is March 18th, and the deadline to submit a candidate statement for Voter pamphlet is March 22nd. Ballots will be mailed to voters on April 28th, and Election Day is Tuesday, May 18th!
For all Democrats: Have you moved lately? Make sure your voter status is current and confirm that you are a registered Democrat. It’s easy and quick to register and update.
Check out this excellent documentary chronicling the little-known history of racism in Oregon and the moving story of people, both black and white, who worked for civil rights. There are moments of highly disturbing racism in a state not known for diversity. But there are also moments of inspiration and courage as people take a stand to bring about important change.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.” – Joint Statement from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Senators. Ron Wyden and Cory Booker
Political parties are formed on paper, and only come to life by the will of their members. It is our work that gives breath and strength to this body that we call the Democratic Party of Multnomah County. We must continue to build a party that truly reflects the communities that we serve. As your chair, it will be my duty to serve the interests of our members, to help lay out new paths for civic engagement and grassroots democracy to thrive in Multnomah County. I am excited to work with you to develop new systems to engage our community and our elected officials. To prepare the ground for the next generation of democrats. Most importantly, to create an atmosphere where people feel welcomed, wanted, and needed.
This issue of the Digest offers lots of news you can use. Most important: join us at the Central Committee virtual meeting on Thursday, February 11th. Members must RSVP for this Zoom meeting by completing the form at this link.
— Julio Castilleja Chair, The Democratic Party of Multnomah County. Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org