In the community

Ontario man pursues vote to give rural areas more members in Oregon House

ONTARIO – Antonio Sunseri believes in democracy.
And he has an ambitious blueprint to ensure democracy continues to thrive and succeed in eastern Oregon.
Sunseri plans to craft a ballot initiative designed to expand the Oregon House by 240 seats. If passed by voters the measure would divide Oregon House District 60 – which includes Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur counties and a piece of Lake County – into five sections.
“That would allow Malheur County to have two full legislative districts and that would make gerrymandering hard to do,” said Sunseri.
Sunseri, who ran and lost against current state Rep. Mark Owens in the 2022 November election on the Progressive Part ticket, said his initiative will safeguard democracy.
“It would help representation be more local,” said Sunseri.
A larger lower house, he said, will enhance the relationship between voters and their representatives. The size of District 60 inhibits that.
“It is harder for someone like Mark Owens to represent people in such a vast area,” he said.
Sunseri, a pressman for the Argus Observer, said he is already collecting signatures to get his idea on the ballot.
“I have been going pretty slow but I plan to pick it up later in December,” he said.
Now, he said, he’s collected about 100 signatures. He first needs 1,000 signatures before a ballot title can be certified by elections officials. Once that is done, he would need 150,000 signatures by July 2024 to get the measure on the November 2024 ballot.
Sunseri said he already has volunteers in the Springfield and Portland area interested in collecting signatures.
“I think having the House be larger allows everyone to have their voice heard,” he said.
Sunseri, who is a 2017 Vale High School graduate, said another goal of his effort is to add variety to the election cycle.
“I want to make it easier for third-party candidates to get elected. If a district is smaller it is a more personal race, rather than parties on the ballot,” he said.
Sunseri said he decided to get involved in state politics because “I want the community to be better.”
“I also want to be informed on the issues,” he said.
Sunseri said the root of his idea for the ballot initiative can be traced to New Hampshire.
The state assembly in New Hampshire is called the General Court of New Hampshire. It, like Oregon, consists of two chambers but its House consists of 400 members while its Senate has 24 senators.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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