Opinion

Grange not through with blanket primary fight

In the 1930s the Washington State Grange was instrumental through the initiative process in establishing the open blanket primary system, which has been enjoyed by all of the voters for all these years. Three years ago the political parties, encouraged by the Supreme Court decision on the California blanket primary, filed a lawsuit against the state of Washington. Because the Washington State Grange was the author of the blanket primary system at the outset, the grange joined the secretary of state in the process of fighting the lawsuit.

In California, registration to vote requires identification of a political party preference. There is no mention of political party in the registration in Washington State. Our long-standing primary system was allowed to stay in place through the entire legal process. The Federal District Court judge ruled in favor of the state and grange. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the political parties declaring the open blanket primary unconstitutional. (Remember, this is the same court that also declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.) But we weren't through. The state of Washington and the grange filed separate appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court denied the state of Washington a hearing and the Washington State Grange was turned down just a few days ago.

In the meantime, the State Legislature was working to solve the problem. The Senate passed SB 6453, which would allow the top two vote getters to move forward to the general election, regardless of party. The House also passed the bill after adding an amendment, which provides an alternative process that stipulates that if the parties succeed in challenging the top-two system, no crossover voting will be allowed.

The governor may section veto the top two primary portion of the bill, leaving only the more restrictive primary in place as the law of the state. The administrative costs of providing ballots for this type of election result in an additional unfounded mandate to the counties of $7 million. All those voting by absentee ballots would have to be furnished with a set of ballots for each party; however by law they could only use one of the ballots or have their entire vote thrown out.

Many of the people voting by absentee ballot are elderly. The whole process will be very confusing to them. People voting at the polls will have to identify with a political party or lose their right to vote.

The political parties do not elect, the voters do! The grange is coming to the rescue again with Initiative 872, the "People's Choice" initiative. We will have to work very hard to accomplish this, requiring 250,000 signatures by July 2. We ask you to join us in this endeavor.

Contact Boots Fischer at (425) 888-3130 for blank initiatives or for locations of initiatives to sign in your area. Protect your right to vote for any candidate in a primary election.

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