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The Measure that Almost Passed

The Score Then Automatic Runoff Voting system, or STAR Voting, did not pass in Lane County in the 2018 midterm election.

 

Unlike Lane County’s current traditional voting system, STAR Voting would allow voters to rate each candidate on a scale from zero to five. Zero is the candidate you want elected least, five is the candidate you want elected most. The two candidates who score the highest go into an automatic runoff. This system would eliminate the need for a primary election. However, STAR Voting would only apply to nonpartisan officials running in Lane County. Voters would continue to use the current voting system for state and federal elections. 

 

The concept for the STAR Voting system was developed in Lane County by technology and software developer Mark Frohnmayer. According to a press release issued by Sara Wolf, STAR for Lane County’s Campaign Manager, had this measure passed, it would have been the first of its kind in the world.

 

Frohnmayer claims that STAR Voting would reduce campaign costs by eliminating the need for primary elections and runoff races. STAR Voting could potentially eliminate printing, mailing and counting costs that incur during elections. Frohnmayer estimates STAR Voting could save Lane County $150,445.39 every two years.

 

“With STAR Voting, there is always just a single election in November. The benefit to county residents, on the whole, is enormous when hundreds of thousands of extra special interest influence dollars are not a part of the process,” Frohnmayer explained in a press statement.

 

Lane County voters, however, are not quite ready to change the way they elect officials.  STAR Voting received 74,408 in favor of the measure and 82,157 votes against the measure according to the Lane County election results.

 

Despite the loss, supporters of Measure 20-290 were ecstatic.

 

“Almost 75,000 Lane County voters chose YES to support a fundamentally new political process. This result, for a brand new system that many voters only learned about when they received their ballots three weeks ago, is simply phenomenal,” Frohnmayer said in the same press release.

 

The number of people that voted yes on the measure was heartening to Frohnmayer. With another two years of education and communication, Frohnmayer feels this measure has a strong potential of passing in 2020.

 

However, “the fact we don’t get to use it in 2020 is a real bummer,” Frohnmayer said.

 

Moving forward after the midterms, the STAR Voting team will continue to push to have STAR Voting on the ballot again in 2020.

 

Hallie Roberts, a campaign manager for Measure 20-290, said she hopes to get people to apply STAR Voting to different aspects of their lives. Roberts would like to see STAR Voting being used in high schools to elect their student council. She feels this would give people the practice using the system that they need to feel more comfortable with STAR Voting.

 

Roberts said her goal moving forward is to help people understand how STAR Voting works so there is less “fear” surrounding the measure. 

 

Wolf said in a press release she feels the pitfall of this loss could have been a lack of understanding for the measure. Wolf said many people left this question blank, simply because they did not understand what it was asking. Wolf said that if the measure been referred to by its common nickname, STAR Voting, instead of the full name, it may have had more success at the polls.

 

The supporters of STAR Voting were happy with the amount of yes votes this measure got on its first time on the ballot. The narrow loss has only excited the STAR Voting supporters and they look forward to seeing it on the ballot again in 2020.

 

“It is better to have a narrow loss than a narrow win,” measure co-petitioner Alan Zundel said.

 

Zundel feels if the measure had narrowly passed, there would be a large group of voters that do not understand the system. Narrowly losing has given the supporters of STAR Voting the opportunity to educate more voters throughout Lane County about the measure before the next election in 2020.

 

“[Most people] hadn’t had a chance to hear about it,” Zundel said referring to the lack of knowledge that surrounded the measure.

 

Frohnmayer added he feels most of the lack of knowledge was distributed in the outskirts of Lane County. People further out in Lane County were harder to reach and most didn’t have the opportunity to hear about what STAR Voting was all about.

 

The STAR for Lane County campaign plans to make all the educational materials surrounding this measure “Open Source”. This is in an effort to further educate voters about this measure.

 

Wolf said in the press release that this is only the beginning for STAR Voting,

 

 “Look out 2020!” 

 

Skylar Van Tilburg is a junior majoring in Journalism and Public Relations at the University of Oregon. She currently serves on the Her Campus Oregon executive board as the Marketing and Publicity Director. Skylar also works for the Daily Emerald, UO's student newspaper, on the engagement desk. She focuses mainly on social media work but also enjoys writing for both the Daily Emerald and Her Campus Oregon.
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