If you're not a Democrat or Republican, it just got harder for you to win elective office in Oregon, even though that was not a new law's intended effect.

The new rules went on line at the first of the year, and say that if you vote in a party primary, you can't sign a petition for an independent candidate for the same office.

Basically, we have Ralph Nader and Willamette Valley Republicans to thank for this. When Ralph tried to get on the ballot as an independent in 2004, Oregon Democrats were furious.

Seeing a possible repeat of 2000, when Nader's candidacy arguably siphoned off just enough liberal votes to give Bush a chance at the presidency (albeit, by suing to stop recounts), conservative Republicans were all for Ralph running again.

Some even went so far as to sign petitions for his candidacy and go to Nader's nominating convention in Portland. "Who cares if he stands for everything we don't like? At least he'll help us beat Kerry!" seemed to be the reasoning of the day.

The new law, written by Democrats, supposedly keeps outside groups from hijacking independent candidates for ulterior motives.

But this new law severely limits the signature-gathering pool for independent candidates.

It will take a lot more time to gather valid signatures and time means money, something independents usually have little of, relatively speaking.

Without a huge war chest, independent voices will effectively be removed from Oregon's political landscape, their message relegated to photocopied newsletters, five-line e-mail lists and the odd protest on Earth Day or the Fourth of July.

The Legislature should revisit this law in the next session.

Yes, it's wrong to underhandedly crash a minority opponent's convention with a mind to scuttle your "real" opponent's candidacy, but it's just as wrong to essentially outlaw minority views, in terms of elective office. Separate the two concepts with a better law.

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