PORTLAND, OR – On June 14 the Portland Charter Commission voted overwhelmingly (17 out of 20 Charter Commissioners) to advance a comprehensive ballot measure to Portland voters this November that would reform Portland’s elections and city government.
In preparation for the vote, staff and officials held 80 public meetings and hearings, 26 listening sessions, and almost 150 community presentations and conversations, and received over 4,000 survey responses to inform the commission’s decision.
“It has been inspiring to watch such an engaging and inclusive charter reform process,” said Jay Lee, researcher for Sightline Institute’s democracy program in Portland. “The commission’s public outreach and research has ensured a breadth of perspective and developed a depth of understanding for everyone involved. I have appreciated learning alongside commissioners as a member of the public and look forward to the conversation from now until the general election.”
The city charter ballot measure will include a move to four multi-member districts, geographic districts that each elect three city councilors through a process of proportional ranked choice voting, and a move away from the commission form of government by removing individual city councilors’ executive role in directly running city bureaus. This reform would increase the size of the city council to 12 members from its current five, which would increase the number of viewpoints represented in council discussions. Moving away from winner-take-all elections to electing multiple members proportionally in each district allows representation for groups that are not geographically concentrated, like people of color, renters or younger voters. The charter commission won’t draw the districts themselves, but the measure will include some guidelines and a process for a different body to draw the districts moving forward.
“These reforms have the potential to really transform Portland’s governance and expand access for residents who have historically been locked out of power at city hall,” noted Lee.
Because the Portland Charter Commission voted as a supermajority, the proposed ballot language will go straight to the voters this November.