Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fusion Voting Passes House Cmte

Certainly the most important and long-overdue bills to come out of the Legislature this week are the anti-discrimination and civil unions bills on behalf of our GLBT friends. And can I interject this while I'm on the subject? Hey you thinly veiled bigots on the other side--'T' stands for "transgender," not "transvestite." Eddie Izzard is a guy who dresses like a woman sometimes (although recently he's been spending his time in well-tailored suits as a fake lawyer in the outstanding dramedy The Riches), but that neither makes him gay, nor on the cusp of seeking a penile-ectomy. It makes him a bloke who likes women's clothing, or as he put it in his breakthrough standup performance Dress To Kill, "running, jumping, climbing trees...and putting on makeup when you get up there." So quit worrying about "cross-dressing men entering the ladies' room," OK? It hasn't the first fucking thing to do with gay rights. Settled? Can we move on to fusion voting now? OK.

Anyhow, those are the historic bills that moved through Salem this week, but another one dear to my heart that is also moving positively is the drive to allow fusion voting--a concept with its own rich history. I offered written testimony in support to Diane Rosenbaum's Elections, Ethics and Rules committee when it had its public hearing, and have discussed its benefits here before, in context of the new Working Families Party in Oregon that seeks to mimic its New York inspiration and begin cross endorsing candidates starting in 2008, as parties across the country and especially Oregon routinely did in the late 19th Century.

After yesterday we're one step closer to that goal, as the committee gave a "do-pass" recommendation on a 4-2 vote and sent it on to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, after which it will hopefully get the floor votes needed to make it law. (To be honest, I haven't ever seen any indication that Goobernor Ted is either in favor or opposed, but my guess is if the bill hits his desk he'll sign it). Majority Leader Hunt was absent for the vote, but in a somewhat surprising move (given her rather pestering questions at the hearing) Republican Kim Thatcher also backed the bill. Representatives Berger and Esquivel voted no.

The WFP/Fusion group has set next Monday morning the 23rd as Lobby Day for the bill, where supporters will fan out to Ways and Means offices seeking support. If you want to join them, meet up in the Rotunda of the Capitol at 9:15 AM. Need a ride to Salem? Someone can get you there--send an email to or call 503-841-7161 and ask for David Fink. If you're from Lane County, the WFP is particularly interested in having your support. And if you can't make it, you can still make a call or drop a letter to one of the Ways and Means Members:

Sen. Kurt Schrader, Co-Chair
Rep. Mary Nolan, Co-Chair
Sen. Margaret Carter, Vice-Chair
Rep. Nancy Nathanson, Vice-Chair
Sen. Alan C Bates
Sen. Richard Devlin
Sen. Avel Gordly
Sen. Betsy Johnson
Sen. Frank Morse
Sen. David Nelson
Sen. Joanne Verger
Sen. Ben Westlund
Sen. Doug Whitsett
Sen. Jackie Winters
Rep. David Edwards
Rep. Larry Galizio
Rep. Bill Garrard
Rep. Bruce L Hanna
Rep. Bob Jenson
Rep. Susan Morgan
Rep. Chip Shields

Fusion is a marvelous idea that shifts the voter's paradigm from picking the least of evils selected by members of parties you don't even belong to, to choosing the issues and ideology most important to you and endorsing the candidate who best exemplifies your position on those issues. Should that candidate win, he or she will know exactly who to thank, and what to work on once in office in order to keep those endorsements.

As an example to justify my tangent at the top, if you want a candidate who strongly supports gay rights, you no longer need to simply select the Democrat and hope for the best--you can cross-endorse him or her on a theoretical "Human Rights Party" line and show just how popular gay rights positions are, or you can draft and support your own candidate and draw support from other minor parties and even disaffected Democrats and Republicans tired of being afraid of the spoiler effect. We need all the tools we can get to regain control of our democracy; fusion is a very useful member of that toolbox and deserves to return to the pantheon of Oregon law.