Jul 27, 2015 · 4 min read

By Hatewatch Staff

In its latest effort for political success, the white nationalist American Freedom Party is pushing for a change in the way elections work, specifically in Oregon, where its political ambition aims to put members on a local school board.

The plan was announced earlier this month, when AFP’s Board of Directors announced a campaign to push an state-wide initiative approving “Proportional Representation,” also known as “ranked choice voting,” onto the ballot this November. The idea, as opposed to majority elections, argues that any group of like-minded voters should win political seats in proportion to its share of the popular vote.

AFP’s Oregon chapter is busy gathering signatures in St. Helens, a town of 13,000 that is 90% white, to push the initiative. They need to gather signatures from 10 percent of voters in order to push the initiative, and AFP leaders have claimed they are already nearing this threshold.

The political benefits, if such were to pass, are abundantly clear.

“Residents would therefore to be able to vote for any number of the eight city council seats up for election every other year by ranking their choice of candidates. Our initiative would also permit voters to simultaneously increase the city council from four to eight members, a particularly well received proposal in this rapidly growing area, and have them each elected for two year terms (currently at four) at even year biannual elections,” AFP said in a post on racist site Occidental Observer.

In short, changing the way the election works might give a fringe political position like AFP and its racists supporters a better chance.

There are reasons AFP wants this. By changing the way candidates are elected, AFP has a better chance of getting one of their candidates into the school board, where they would push a white nationalist agenda to challenge Common Core standards and multiculturalism. That this is happening in the Pacific Northwest, where AFP has remained closely tied to a number of skinhead groups and a high concentration of racial hatred, is troubling, though.

Since its founding, AFP has remained closely tied to a number of skinhead groups, and its activists have held events across the country focusing on issues such as immigration and opposition to “white genocide.” St. Helens also is a mere 28 miles north of Portland, which has a long history of racist and skinhead organizing and violence.

In 1988, Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian graduate student, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat by a group of skinheads called East Side White Pride, a group trained in racial confrontation by Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance (WAR). Metzger wrote after the murder that the Portland skinheads had done a “civic duty” in killing the black man.

More recently, anti-racist skinhead Luke Querner was shot and paralyzed on the streets of Portland in 2010. No arrests were been made. In a separate 2013 case, Robert Paul Smith was found guilty of aggravated murder, robbery, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm — charges that stem from a January 2012 robbery of the Cottage Grove, Ore., home of 48-year-old Terry Fruichantie, who was fatally shot. Prosecutor Erik Hasselman told the Eugene Register-Guard that Smith was a member of the WAR Skins. The group is believed to be an offshoot of Metzger’s group.

While it is unlikely the campaign in St. Helen’s will result in AFP getting one of its members elected to the school board, it does indicate that the party is showing signs of adopting new political tactics to address a history of abysmal electoral results. In 2012, for example, when Merlin Miller and Virginia Abernathy were AFP’s presidential ticket, the pair received just about 12,900 votes nationwide.

Such lackluster numbers haven’t seemed to dissuade the party. AFP is again running Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates for 2016 and plans to run candidates for office in a number of states. And while AFP’s attempts to reform the electoral system in St. Helen’s may look benign, the election of a white nationalist candidate at any level will always be a major threat to an inclusive democracy.

Hatewatch Blog

Hatewatch is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.


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The Southern Poverty Law Center combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation.

Hatewatch Blog

Hatewatch is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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