Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Zilly: "Top Two" Primary is Unconstitutional

A victory for common sense and for the freedoms put down in the U.S. Constitution:
A U.S. District Court judge on Friday struck down Washington state's new "top two" primary system, approved by voters last fall, as unconstitutional, saying it infringed on the rights of political parties to pick their own nominees for office.

In a 40-page ruling, Judge Thomas Zilly said the state cannot allow voters to skip back and forth along party lines as they pick a favorite candidate for each office. Nor can it allow candidates to identify themselves by party on a ballot without that party's approval, the ruling said.
NPI strongly applauds this ruling. We have long argued that the "Top Two" primary, put into place by Initiative 872, is not constitutional. See our Special Report on the primary system and why it's unsound for the state.

The ruling means that the top two primary system goes out the window:
The effect of the ruling, Zilly said, was that Washington would return to the "Montana-style" primary it used during last fall's election. Under that system, voters select one party's ballot and vote for their favorite candidates on that ballot.
We also applaud this as well. The Montana system was a good choice that preserved parties' freedoms while not forcing voters to have to register with a political party.

The Attorney General and the Grange have promised to appeal, but it's to be expected, and this ruling could hardly be better:
Zilly dismissed [the] argument, saying that if candidates are identified by party preference on the ballot, it's not a nonpartisan system. And, he said, if parties can merely endorse whoever makes the final ballot, the state is stepping on their right to nominate a candidate.

"To relegate the members of a political party to a role of mere support for their preferred 'standard bearer' would deny a party its role in selecting its representative," Zilly wrote.
This is a good ruling that affirms what the First Amendment says. Washington does not need a "top two" primary system. What we need is a system that's fair to parties and gives voters broader choices.

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