October 11, 2016

Press Release: Diverse Coalition Calls on Portland City Council to Pass Legislation to Increase Participation in Local Politics

Democracy Reform Groups Send Open Letter to Council in Support of Open and Accountable Elections reform

Portland, Ore. — Today, a diverse coalition of groups representing tens of thousands of Portland residents sent an open letter to the Portland City Council calling on them to pass the Open and Accountable Elections reform, which would increase participation and give everyday people a bigger say in local politics.

“Our city is stronger when everyone has an equal say and greater opportunity to engage in our democracy, whether by running for office to represent their own communities, or bringing their perspectives forward on the policies that impact us all,” the open letter signed by over a dozen groups states. “We want to raise our voices to unlock meaningful solutions to our city’s biggest challenges. Open and Accountable Elections creates new pathways to get us there.”

The coalition—called A Voice for All Portland and comprised of organizations that represent communities of color, small businesses, housing advocates, environmental champions, working people, students, and democracy activists—aims to reduce barriers for people from diverse backgrounds to run for office and to incentivize candidates to spend more time campaigning among marginalized communities.

Eighteen groups urging the City Council to pass Open and Accountable Elections reform via the open letter include Portland NAACP, League of Women Voters of Portland, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Latino Network, Asian Pacific Action Network of Oregon, Unite Oregon, Common Cause, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), The Bus Project, Coalition of Communities of Color, Color PAC, Main Street Alliance, ROSE Community Development, Democracy Spring, Bernie PDX, Portland Forward, and the President of Portland State University’s student body.

“Our groups are on the front lines every day advancing the interests of Portland’s women, people of color, working families, immigrant communities, small businesses, young people, seniors, LGBTQ individuals, and other underrepresented groups,” the open letter states. “We believe in a Portland where the people we serve contribute to meaningful solutions to our city’s biggest challenges, and where they have a truly equal chance to run for office to do so. But there are real barriers to running and participating under our current system.”

The Portland City Council will hold a hearing on Open and Accountable Elections reform on November 3rd.

The reform package would put everyday voters at the center of our democracy by reducing the power of wealthy, special interests and giving ordinary Portlanders a bigger say in the political process. Under the Open and Accountable Elections program, candidates that agree to limit their contributions to $250 will be able to replace the large donations from wealthy contributors with small donations of $50 or less from ordinary people matched six-to-one with limited public funds. It would also increase accountability and transparency in local elections by increasing disclosure and cracking down on those that break the rules with stricter penalties.