Washington Primary System

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In Washington State, the primary has for many years been a blanket primary: vote for any candidate you want to, of any party, for any office. Vote for a Republican for governor and a Democrat for Senator and a Libertarian for Congress.

Because the purpose of the primary is for the parties to determine which of their candidates should be on the general election ballot, the two major parties sued and the courts agreed that the blanket primary was unconstitutional: the parties should get to choose their own general election candidates.

Long story short, in the Washington primary this year, each voter chose one of the three parties, and voted for candidates only in that party. Some people are extremely angered by this, because they feel their choices are being taken away. And they are right, but their choice is not the point: the choice of the parties is the point. The parties are the ones deciding who they will endorse.

(As a side note, many people are also outraged at the idea of having to "choose" a party, because you do not register a party affiliation in Washington. According to one survey, 30 percent of people lacked confidence their selection in the primary would remain confidential, but that's extremely unlikely. Anyway, it goes back to the main point, that the parties should be able to choose their own candidates with people who choose to identify with that party.)

So out of this anger arises Initiative 872, the Grange Initiative. In it, the primary would revert to a blanket primary, but instead of the top from each party advancing, only the top two -- irrespective of party -- would advance to the general election.

It is the worst of all worlds.

First, it is probably illegal, because it has the same problems as the original primary the courts found unconstitutional.

Second, it is probably illegal for additional reasons: now a group that has enough signatures to get a candidate on the general election ballot would be denied access (third parties, or a minority second party).

Third, and most importantly, even if not illegal for the second point, it is certainly undemocratic, and while it claims to increase choice in the primary, it necessarily significantly reduces choice in the general election. You get only two choices, period. The primary is not a pre-election, it is the election.

Fourth, it will probably end up reducing choice in the primary election, too: the parties do not have to use the primaries, and very likely, if this becomes law, the parties would choose to select most of their candidates at the conventions instead, so the primaries would have only one candidate from each party.

It's a horrible idea, and I can't figure out why it was introduced. It doesn't make any sense, on any level. I know why it is being supported, though; hopefully, voters won't vote for it just because they are angry. slashdot.org

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