U.S. Supreme Court decision should make Washington voters happy
August 28, 2008 · Updated 2:08 PM
A March 18 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court should make a lot of voters in Washington state very happy.
The decision by the top court in the land upholds Washingtons voter-approved Top 2 primary system which had been working its way through the court system for the past four years and will now be used in the upcoming August primary election.
Despite the record-setting 44 percent statewide turnout by registered voters in the Feb. 19, 2008 presidential primary, many voters were unhappy with the states Pick-A-Party primary, in which they were required to declare a party affiliation, that was being used as the courts decided the fate of the Top 2 primary system. When the Pick-A-Party primary was first used in the September 2004 primary election, the Washington Office of the Secretary of State received more than 14,000 calls and letters from voters opposed to the Pick-A-Party primary. Following that primary election, surveys revealed that only 21 percent of voters supported the Pick-A-Party primary. By 2008, public opinion hadnt changed much as the Secretary of States office reported receiving more than 9,000 calls and 800 e-mails from voters concerned about the political party oath required by the Pick-A-Party primary.
For nearly 70 years, from 1935 to 2003, Washington voters used a blanket primary system. Except for president primaries, all properly registered voters could vote for their choice at any primary for any candidate for each office, regardless of political affiliation and without a declaration of political faith or adherence on the part of the voter. But in September of 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held Washingtons blanket primary system unconstitutional because it denies the political parties right of free association. In 2004, after continued uncertainty, Initiative 872 is placed on the general election ballot. I-872, which proposes a Top 2 primary system in which a voter has the right to cast a vote for any candidate for each office without any limitation based on party preference or affiliation or either the voter or candidate, is whole-heartedly supported by the public and passes with nearly 60 percent approval. But the states political parties file suit and the issue spends years working its way through the legal system.
But the recent court decision brings us full circle and now primary election voters will be using the Top 2 system in which voters can cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice regardless of party affiliation, and the two candidates in each contested partisan race who receive the most votes will move on to the general election, even if they are from the same party. And third party and independent candidates will no longer advance directly to the general election, they will file for office and appear on the primary ballot in the same manner as candidates from the major parties.
Washingtons voters have always been an independent lot who relished the ability to vote for their candidate of choice. That choice had been missing for the past four years but, thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling, Washington voters will once again be free to vote for whomever they choose.
To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.