A new way to run an election: Approval Voting Primary

A new way to run an election: Approval Voting Primary »Play Video
Photo illustration of Mark Frohnmayer and the text of his proposed ballot measure

EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon's major-party primary election system hasn't changed for decades.

Now, a Eugene businessman wants to turn that system, upside down.

Mark Frohnmayer is an entrepreneur, an electric car maker, the son of former University of Oregon president and 1990 candidate for governor, Dave Frohnmayer.

He's taking a stab at politics, but he's not running for office.

Instead, Mark Frohnmayer wants to change the way Oregon elects the governor, secretary of state and other candidates.

Right now, Democrats only vote for Democrats and Republicans for Republicans in the May primary.

"This effectively disenfranchises a third of the voting populac, in a publicly funded election," Frohnmayer said.

So he's proposing all candidates in a race would run against each other in the primary. 

The top 2 finishers advance to the November runoff - even if the top 2 are from the same party.

It's an open primary with a twist: what Frohnmayer calls "approval voting."

"The candidates that come forward and the positions that they take will be much more reflective of the citizens that are actually electing them to that post," Frohnmayer predicted.

He said the idea was inspired by the recent federal government shutdown, which was sparked (in his view) by Tea Party friendly members of Congress who cater to a narrow base of the Republican Party. 

Frohnmayer believes a modified open primary would lead to less polarized politics.

Under the measure, people could vote for more than one candidate in a primary race. 

It's an idea that probably won't be favored by the Ds or Rs.

 "The feeling of among party leaders is if you want to vote for democrats or republicans,
you should register as a Democrat or Republican - otherwise, you're sort of diluting the strength of the party in the primary," said Steve Candee, political science instructor at Lane Community College.

The question is: are Oregon voters ready for change of this magnitude? 

Frohnmayer thinks so.

"Even just thinking of the idea of representative democracy, it's we the people, not we the party," he said.

Supporters will have to get more than 87,000 voter signatures collected by next July to qualify the measure for the Oregon November 2014 ballot.