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It All Comes Down to the Vote

Nearly eleven months ago we began our biggest effort ever to elect fair-minded lawmakers and replace those lawmakers who have stood in the way of equality. On Election Day, we said, we want to wipe out at least one anti-equality vote in the Oregon House, jeopardize the return of Karen Minnis to the Speaker’s seat and reelect Governor Ted Kulongoski. Throughout the last eleven months, BRO supporters statewide have contributed tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to this effort. We have come so far and done so much. This race is almost over, but in order to win we have to keep pushing through to the finish line.

It all comes down to the vote.
Endorsements are in. Ballots are out. Millions have been spent. Only one question remains: When ballots are counted will Oregon elect a slate of fair-minded candidates? Candidates who will create real change in the lives of GLBT Oregonians? Or not?

There are early signs that we have a good chance to make change on Election Day. In Corvallis, voters are expected to approve a change to the City Charter that will prohibit discrimination in all formsincluding based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Oregon’s race for Governor is neck and neck with Governor Kulongoski just slightly ahead. House Speaker Karen Minnis has outspent her opponent 2 to 1, but has not gained support in the polls. And in all of the swing races in the Oregon House, polling indicates that fair-minded candidates are even with or leading their opponents. That’s good news.

Here’s the bad news: Equality and fairness could still lose.
What matters now is who shows up. If fair-minded voters go to the polls, Oregon will be a very different state on November 8th. But powerful political forces are counting on historical trends to suppress voter participation and tip the election in their favor. That’s because traditionally, voters who share our values simply don’t vote in non-presidential elections.

One need only look to the anti-gay Measure 9 and Measure 13 campaigns to see how voter participation can affect the outcome of an election. In 1992, the first No on 9 campaign took place in a Presidential election year and more than 1.5 million Oregonians turned out to vote. We defeated Lon Mabon by a whopping 12 percentage points. But just two years later when he brought the exact same anti-gay measure to the ballot, it was a very different picture. That year 200,000 pro-equality voters failed to vote. 200,000 fair-minded voters left the choice to someone else. The result? Measure 13 was BARELY defeated by only 4 percentage points.

Many of the swing races that will determine the future of equality in Oregon for years to come will decided by similaror smallermargins. The bottom line? This election is ours to take or to hand to our opponents.
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