Ah the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has done it again – today they ruled that Washington State’s “blanket primary” – a system where people can vote in any or all parties’ primaries at once – is unconstitutional. Read all about it at The Seattle Times.
I had to chuckle a little when I read the news. Especially when I read self-righteous “shock and horror” howling by provincial-minded politicos who keep on defending a system that denies the basic Constitutional rights for citizens and parties to organize and participate in civic life.
They keep on squawking and posturing and spending lots of taxpayer dollars to pander to what they perceive to be what people want – instead of using their position to explain the Constitution (which they did swear to uphold and defend!) and the ruling.
Readers acquatined with the minutiae and dementia that is Washington State politics, may possibly recall that I wrote about this topic in the Seattle PI in 2000 and warned of the consequences of self righteous howling when the state was confronted with this reality 3 years and millions of taxpayer dollars ago. They had a chance then to comply with the law, which by now would have cost much much less than doing so now after spending so much to defend it in court.
(If you do not recall, do not feel bad – it probably means you have something, ANYTHING, more important to store in your memory cells besides Seattle PI Rant Trac-oops I mean Op-Ed pieces)
For those of you not blessed (or perhaps cursed) with firsthand knowledge of Washington’s wacky primary system, a quick primer:
In most states where candidates for office are selected to run by their parties, voters participate in a primary election. For example, in California one can register Republican, and vote for the Republican candidates in the primary to select who will be the standard bearer in the fall general election.
Most imporatantly though, ONLY Republicans (or Democrats, or Greens, or Silly Party members, or whoever) can pick their nominee. You can’t have a pack of wild-eyed hippies trying to screw up the Republican Party by, say, putting a porn star on the ballot and voting for them to be the GOP nominee for State Comptroller.
Washington, however had an “open” primary. This meant that voters could vote in any primary they wanted. Thus Democrats could decide not to vote in a Democratic primary election – they could instead vote in another party (Green, Republican, World Federalist, etc.) primary instead for each individual office. You can see where this is going.
Basically Washington’s system allowed anyone to vote in any primary, even mixing up their ballot with all sorts of votes – one could presumably vote in a different party’s primary for each one of the constitutional officers for example.
It’s a bogus system designed to damage political organization, and collective action by people through a party. It’s unfair to the voters in general election because it denies them a chance to have a real contest between the various parties in the general election who are true standard bearers of the various parties.
The fact is if Republicans want to have a vote on who their nominee for State Treasurer, Dog Catcher, or Water Commissioner, they have the right to do so and not have to contend with non-Republicans trying to screw it all up.
They have a constitutionally protected right of free speech and assembly that is being violated when they’re forced to allow people who don’t share their party’s affiliation to participate. Change “Republicans” to “Democrats”, “Greens”, “Reform Party”, or “Silly Party” or whatever party you prefer and the same rule applies.
There are all sorts of “defenses” of the system as is, but the fact is those defenses are irrelevant. The most irritating to me is the one put out by so many of Washington’s alleged “leaders” that somehow this system produces more “moderate” candidates and thus there’s a public interest in creating an electoral system that marginalizes all but the most bland of voices.
The state should not be in the business of deciding what brand of ideology gets to be presented to voters – and deciding which ones do not. To do so is to make the state in charge of deciding What’s Best For You – instead of you deciding it yourself. That’s Stalinist, at worst, Leninist or Fascist at best.
If the candidates elected as nominees for the general election are too extreme, voters can make another choice and vote for an Independent candidate (who can be truly independent). If a party ends up nominating leftist (or rightist) wackos, that party WILL lose elections and they will have NO ONE but their own party members to blame.
Well the courts have spoken. I’m sure Attorney General (and candidate for Governor) Christine Gregoire will litigate this all the way to the Supreme Court in hopes of at least looking like she’s Standing Up For the People. Never mind that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, the Supreme Court will rule (in a rare moment ) with the 9th Circuit, and the whole process is a taxpayer paid sham.
Then again, as a former aide to GOP Sen. Slade Gorton, perhaps she’s hoping for some GOP votes in next year’s primary. Could help in a close race with Democrats such as Ron Sims or Phil Talmadge.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com
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