POLK COUNTY -- An effort to place a measure on the November ballot to make Polk County Board of Commissioner seats nonpartisan has now gone to the streets.
Polk County Clerk Val Unger said no petitions to review the ballot title were filed by the Tuesday, June 21 deadline, freeing petitioners to begin collecting signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
"We are starting the process now," Dave Weston, one of the initiative's two chief petitioners, said Thursday, June 23. "We have a limited time to do so."
Weston said he is working to get petitions out in the Dallas area, while the other chief petitioner, Danny Jaffer, is taking on the Monmouth and Independence areas.
Petitions will also be circulated in the West Salem area with the help of West Salem resident Don Homuth, a former BOC candidate.
The petition group, called Citizens for Polk County, will be out at July 4 festivities in Monmouth and Independence and Dallas' Summerfest on July 28-31.
In order to qualify the initiative for November's general election, petitioners need to collect 1,779 valid signatures by Aug. 10. The group's goal is to gather at least 2,500 signatures, about 700 more than needed, to assure that they collect the required number of valid signatures.
"We think we can get the signatures we need," Weston said.
Weston and Jaffer -- both former candidates for board of commissioners seats -- filed the initiative to open BOC primaries to all voters. Currently, voters who are not registered as Democrats or Republicans can't vote for commissioner candidates in primary elections. BOC seats are the only elective office in the county that are not nonpartisan.
Jaffer said a bill introduced in the Oregon Legislature this session would have made all county commissioner positions nonpartisan throughout the state. The bill would have saved time, but it died for lack of a hearing.
"However, we do think that this is important enough that we are willing to work on this and dedicate time to seeing it passed within Polk County," Jaffer said.
"About 10,000 people (currently) registered in Polk County are part of neither party," Weston noted. "There are about 40,000 total registered voters. It works out to 24.5 percent of voters technically disenfranchised by virtue of how we run (primary) elections."
The initiative would allow all voters to vote for any candidate in the primary.