Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Thank the Dems and GOP for Top Two Primary Mess

Posted by Warren Peterson on March 20, 2008

Great job Washington State Republican and Democratic parties! Rather than using the legislative process, you got the courts to approve replacing Washington’s blanket or open primary with a closed primary. Never mind that voters overwhelmingly opposed the change. As a direct result, a grass roots initiative was passed implementing a totally different type of primary. Once again you challenged in court what the people approved. Now thanks to a 7 to 2 decision against you by the US Supreme Court, we will be saddled with the worst of all worlds, the Top Two primary. Under this system, the top two voter getters will advance to the general election. It is possible that two Republicans or two Democrats could be on the general election ballot. Minor parties are effectively frozen out.

It is true that an open primary allows crossover voting and weakens the parties but at least in districts where one party has a large majority, the other party can still offer an alternative. Yes, a closed primary allows that too but in populist Washington, most people want the ability to vote for “the best candidate” in the primary regardless of party.

Better to have left sleeping dogs lie.

See the Seattle Times for a good report on the issue.

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One Response to “Thank the Dems and GOP for Top Two Primary Mess”

  1. Dick Derham said

    Warren,

    I agree with your defense of the open primary and your disagreement with Top Two, but your disagreement with the parties is misplaced. As is your suggestion that they should have gone to the legislature.

    Contrary to what you imply, the two political parties were in favor of an open primary (as were the Libertarians) and did not support a closed primary.

    It was the legislature that first voted for Top Two. (Governor Locke used a partial veto to establish an open primary). The people then voted for Top Two.

    The parties went to court to challenge Top Two in order to preserve the Open Primary, which is what we have had in the state since 2004.

    So “leaving it to the legislature” would not have been an effective way to avoid Top Two.

    Nor should we assume the last word has been said by the courts. the Supreme Court decided the case on a narrow jurisprudential basis (when is a “facial” challenge appropriate) and made clear that they are open to considering an “as applied” challenge. The burden is now on the Secretary of State (and maybe the legislature next year) to assure a form of ballot that does not infringe upon the associational rights of the parties. Probably they can (but will it also be acceptable to those who sponsored Top Two?)

    Stay tuned.

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