Skip to comments.U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of state's Top 2 primary (WA)
Posted on 03/18/2008 1:15:08 PM PDT by jazusamo
A surprise U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Washingtons voter-approved Top 2 primary system was hailed by Secretary of State Sam Reed today as a huge victory for average voters over the political parties. Wow! Reed said when he heard of the courts decision from The Associated Press. Thats terrific! It means the people of the state of Washington are going to be able to control who gets elected through this process.
The first running of the new primary will be Aug. 19.
But state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said the decision complicates Washington elections, and that the party will insist on the right to designate its favorites on the primary ballot.
Reed, the states chief elections official, said parties may endorse people for each office, but cannot unilaterally choose the nominee. He said party endorsements can be listed in the Voters Pamphlet and elsewhere, but not likely on the ballot itself.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who argued the case last October, said he had privately expected a narrow victory and that A 7-2 rulings was more than I could have hoped for.
McKenna acknowledged that the political parties could head back to court if they object to the states implementation of a Top 2 system this summer. But he said the high courts ruling itself cant be appealed and should stand.
In Washington, voters have long prided themselves on splitting tickets, voting Democratic for one office, a Republican for another and a minor party for another, he said.
The ruling means the state will dump the unpopular pick-a-party primary it has used for the past four years while the voter-approved Top 2 initiative was being challenged in the courts by the political parties.
In its place will be something akin to the old blanket primary that was abolished previously by the federal courts. The ballot will list all candidates for each office and a voter will be able to pick his or her favorite, with ticket-splitting allowed.
The top two vote-getters then will advance to the general election in November, even if they are from the same party. Had the system been in place in 1996, for instance, the governors November final would have been between two Democrats, Gary Locke and Norm Rice, because both outpolled Republican Ellen Craswell.
Its going to look like the blanket primary that ended in 2002, Reed said.
Reed predicted that the Top 2 system will spread to other states, possibly in Oregon and California very soon. The decision shocked former Washington state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt, who helped sponsor the original challenge of the Top 2 system that was approved by voters as Initiative 872, but never implemented.
Youre kidding, he said when he heard the decision. When we were sitting in court the justices appeared to be very hostile to the states position.
He said the justices appeared to agree with the partys position that the Top 2 system undermined its right of free association.
Republicans also argued the parties should have the right to select their own nominees. State GOP Chairman Luke Esser did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The state Grange, the farm advocacy group that sponsored the original blanket primary system and the follow up Top 2 plan, was thrilled by the decision.
Its a huge win, said Terry Hunt, the groups government affairs manager and former president who doggedly pursued the primary issue through the courts, the Legislature and the initiative campaign.
It shows that elections belong to the people, not to the parties, he said. It means the world to voters. It brings them back to where they were (with the blanket primary) and lets them pick the best candidate for each political office. Its a win for this state and for other states that may want to adopt it.
It really opens the door to our elections.
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, a conservative who wins with crossover votes and is often battled by his own party, said, The unemployment line for the political party bosses will be very, very long as voters assert their rights to pick finalists. I cant believe it. The people win this time.
Independent pollster Stuart Elway said the decision will be extremely popular with Washington voters.
People dont want to restrict themselves to one party line, and even partisans like to skip back and forth once in a while. There are very few straight ticket voters here. This news will be welcomed by voters in Washington.
Candidates in both parties will have to appeal to the broad middle of the electorate and not just their bases on the left and the right, Elway said. Candidates with crossover appeal will do best, he said.
The greatest impact of the new primary will be at the legislative level, he predicted. The higher offices, such as the battle between Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, will be less affected since most are already running broad, general-election styles campaigns, he said.
Gregoire had no immediate reaction to the ruling. She had previously supported the Top 2 system, which Rossi opposed in the Legislature.
I dont know that the ruling will have much impact on our campaign, said Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait. We will operate under the system the voters approved and the Supreme Court approved.
In our race, its probably a wash. Were running the campaign weve always been running. Our focus is on facing Christine Gregoire in November, not on the primary.
The cases are 06-713, Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, and 06-730, Washington et al. v. Washington State Republican Party.
You can read the decision here.
Wow! This potentially changes everything.
This is great as for many Reeps living in California voting Republican is irrelevant in so many races.
7-2, with Scalia and Kennedy dissenting.
I am not crazy about this decision. With the liberals on the western side of the mountains dictating everything for the whole state, I am sure they will find a way to promote their two top candidates and have the numbers to effectively eliminate any republican from ever seeing the light of day. I don’t see this as a positive at all.
It should be noted that this decision is a rejection of a facial challenge (e.g., that the initiative is unconstitutional on its face). When the initiative actually takes effect, and elections occur under its regulations, the situation will be changed, and parties will be able to challenge the initiative on the basis of actual harm done to them.
That said, I disagree with Justice Thomas, and agree with Justice Scalia (& Kennedy(!)). This should have been found to be unconstitutional on its face.
I hear you but the libtards could get themselves in a bind trying to split their vote, there’s still a lot of Repubs on the west side.
That said, I don’t know a lot about this.
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I think it means Republicans may as well not even bother putting up candidates. Most of them won't even make it out of the primary. The democrats own this state anyway, so it's probably not much of a change.
Nor am I.
But I am getting really fed up with the whole voting process.
All of us being optimistic about the arguments today in the Heller case need to read this.
You’ve got a point about that, the Heller case is far from being in the bag.
It sounds like the system that Louisiana used to have. Now LA had it because D’s were overwhelmingly dominant back in the day. D’s may be dominant in WA but not overwhelmingly so. I get the idea that WA does have a strong D machine though — what with the recount until you get the answer you want. So they might be able to tilt the results of the R primary — not get 2 D’s in necessarily — although that’s possible — but choose a RINO over a conservative.
It was just the case where the Supremes did not find enough conclusive evidence to overturn a citizen’s initiative. It is like the instant replay in football, in which a call on the field is only overturned if there is conclusive evidence. If only the Supremes would follow that philosophy in other cases.
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