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.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The open primary is here to stay

Tomorrow is primary election day, and for the last few days, the nostalgic whining and complaining about Washington State's open primary (the pick-a-party primary, or Montana-style primary, as it is often referred to) has reached its zenith.

What numerous pundits and a sizable group of voters are unhappy about is the fact that the primary is now actually a primary and not part one of a two part general election. Not surprisingly, the people who are the most unhappy are the folks at the state Grange. They're threatening to sponsor an initiative to remove party affiliation from the ballot altogether.

The Grange ought to stop with that nonsense and listen to the advice of the Tacoma News Tribune:
Face it: Vote-for-anyone primary is gone for good

Even in a democracy, the voters don’t always get what they want. As the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals made clear this week, Washington’s voters aren't going to get their old unrestricted primary election system back.

The Washington State Grange and others who’ve been fighting this losing battle for six years would be wise to let it go.


One "remedy" now being proposed by the Grange – ending all partisan elections in Washington state – is bizarre and destructive.

Parties can certainly run amok, but they are essential to modern democracy. Declaring war on them through the election laws would be idiotic.

Nearly everywhere else in the country, primary elections are understood to be party affairs. The vast majority of states don’t allow citizens to participate in primaries unless they have publicly declared their personal party affiliations.
In Washington State, voters are not required to publicly declare their party affiliation - hence, the primary is "open". It is only fair and reasonable that the selection of nominees for each party is made by that party's members - in other words, the voters who choose to identify with that party.

The News Tribune editorial board is absolutely right. The open primary - the system that preserves our constitutional rights and gives voters broad choices in the general election - is here to stay.

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