Our view: Portland charter reform should get 'yes' vote
We are a group of political scientists from the Portland metropolitan area who have come together to support the November ballot measure to amend the city charter (Measure 26-228).
We are professors and researchers at numerous institutions of higher learning in the area and are well versed in questions of governance and elections. We believe the component parts of this ballot measure can improve Portland's governance, widen representation, diversify our elected officials, and increase engagement by voters. The city needs a change to its charter and this measure will accomplish that task.
There is no doubt that democracy in our nation is under attack. Yet, here in Oregon we have regularly been on the forefront of innovations that strengthen our democracy and lead the way on the national stage. Research recently revealed that Oregon is the easiest state to vote in thanks to universal vote-by-mail, automatic voter registration, paid postage on ballots, and more.
With Measure 26-228, we can once again lead the way towards a better democracy for all. Over 200 political science experts recently urged Congress to adopt proportional representation, which is a combination of ranked choice voting and multi-member districts. That is precisely what Measure 26-228 would do in Portland, in addition to scrapping the outdated commission form of government that all other large U.S. cities have already abandoned.
Opponents to the measure consider the ballot measure experimental, but as scholars who study elections and city management, we disagree. The governance rules being considered here are familiar in cities across the country and around the globe. Consolidating management of city services under a professional administrator and clarifying the separate roles of the mayor and council are embedded in urban politics around the United States. Increasing the size of the City Council and creating geographic districts are standard reforms of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Ranked choice voting and multi-member districts are newer electoral reforms that increase the number of voices heard and the diversity of their perspectives.
Surveys show that voters in cities with ranked choice voting are happy with it and find the process to be simple. Voters like being able to share their full preferences in one election.
Ranked-choice voting is successfully used in various municipal, county and state elections in states as diverse as Utah, Alaska and Maine. All of Portland benefits from the reforms in Measure 26-228.
We are not just experts on these matters. We are voters as well. For the sake of democracy and good governance near and far, we hope all will join us in supporting Measure 26-228.
All views are solely the views of those listed here and are not meant to reflect the perspectives of their universities.
Paul Manson, PhD, Reed College
Jeffrey Meiser, PhD, University of Portland
Ian McDonald, PhD, Lewis & Clark College
Chris Shortell, PhD, Portland State University
Melody Valdini, PhD, Portland State University
Anne Santiago, PhD, University of Portland
Mark Stephan, PhD, Washington State University
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