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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon's Independent Party Looks Ahead After First Ever Primary

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Chris Lehman
/
Northwest News Network
File photo of the ''Oregon Pioneer'' sculpture that sits atop the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Now that Oregon's May primary is over, the winners are looking ahead to November's general election. But the primary was notable for another reason.

There was a third major party on the ballot.

The Independent Party of Oregon was granted major party status last year. That meant that taxpayers foot the bill for the party's primary, just like for Democrats and Republicans.

At roughly 33 percent, turnout for the Independent Party's primary was much lower than it was for Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps not too surprising, given the relative lack of contested races and no candidate on the ballot for president.

A winner in one of the Independent Party's contested races might not be known for some time. In the race for governor, there were more write-in votes than for either of the two candidates on the ballot.

County elections offices have until mid-June to sort through all those names to determine the winner.

Unlike Democrats or Republicans, voters in the Independent Party primary didn't have any presidential candidates to choose from. More than 20,000 Independents wrote in names on the ballot anyhow.

The ultimate selection of presidential candidates for the general election in any party is up to the parties themselves. Whereas Democrats and Republicans do so at their national conventions, officials with the Independent Party say they'll conduct a "presidential preference primary" among party members this summer. The names on the list will include candidates who were written-in in the May primary.