Advocates for the STAR (Score, Then Automatic Runoff) voting system have been working for years to change the current “choose one” system that they say has contributed to polarized two-party politics across the nation.
Next week, after years of work pushing for STAR voting in Lane County, the team might get another chance to have its measure on the ballot — if the Eugene City Council says yes.
“‘Choose one only’ is why we have a two-party, polarized process,” says Mark Frohnmayer, founder of Eugene’s Equal Vote Coalition and STAR Voting Action. “Anytime there is more than one candidate in a race, you’re at a significant disadvantage if you like more than one candidate. It should get better if you like more than one candidate!”
The STAR system would allow voters to score candidates from zero to five, taking the two candidates with the highest scores to the next round. This would eliminate the “spoiler effect” — sometimes called the “Nader” effect — in which you vote for a candidate you don’t favor because you don’t want to split your party’s vote and end up with George W. Bush or Donald Trump.
STAR voting was on the Lane County ballot in 2018 and was narrowly shot down, with a lot of undervotes indicating that voters didn’t understand the measure. Frohnmayer says that with more education and awareness about what the new voting system means, he thinks it would win.
The problem now is getting the measure back on the ballot. Less than a year after the November 2018 vote, supporters started organizing again with a signature campaign to get the measure out to voters in 2020.
To qualify for the May primaries, STAR supporters had to gather 8,091 signatures in favor of the measure by Oct. 14, and they gathered 10,406 supporters. When checking the report, however, Lane County found the campaign was short, flagging and rejecting people whose signatures on the campaign didn’t seem to match the ones that the county had on file.
The STAR team submitted 31 notarized affidavits to Lane County from people whose signatures had been flagged to prove that they had enough valid support, but the county decided to pass the issue off to the city of Eugene. Since the measure wasn’t voted on in May, it is now up to the Eugene City Council to decide whether the measure will be on the November ballot. ν
The City Council vote has been delayed multiple times, but councilors are set to act on it at the 7:30 pm July 27 meeting. More information on how to watch the meeting and sign up to speak at the public forum at Eugene-or.gov/3360/Webcasts-and-Meeting-Materials