It's election day in Washington

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Across the Columbia, our neighbors to the north have an election day today. Here's a little preview. Updated, with results below.

First, a note about the rules of the game: In Washington, the primary election is an all-comers top-two primary. All the candidates run on the same ballot, all the voters get to choose among all the candidates, and the top two - regardless of party - move forward to November. In short, it's a general election with a November runoff (except that if you get a majority, you still have to run against the second-place finisher.)

This is the system that Oregon voters rejected in 2008 and California voters approved in June.

To the races:

For starters, there's the Senate race. Senator Patty Murray faces three Republican challengers -- two-time gubernatorial loser and real estate investor Dino Rossi; former NFL player and alfalfa farmer Clint Didier; and businessman Paul Akers. All three are jockeying for Tea Party support - though it seems that while Didier is winning their support, Rossi will likely move forward. The big question: What's the gap between Murray and Rossi? Update: Murray 46, Rossi 34 - with Didier at 12. It's going to be a close one.

In Southwest Washington, voters will be filling the vacant WA-3 seat left by Congressman Brian Baird. Despite an initially-large field, there's just one Democrat: former legislator and investor Denny Heck. On the Republican side, state Rep. Jaime Herrera is the favorite, while former Freedomworks and Bush aide David Castillo is running a strong Tea Party -powered race. Update: Heck 32, Herrera 27.

Those are the two races that most folks are watching. I'd add to the mix a couple more.

In WA-8 (Bellevue to Puyallup), GOP Congressman Dave Reichert faces seven challengers - two Republicans, four Democrats, and one nonaffiliated. For the first time since 2004, his opponent won't be named Darcy Burner. Most observers expect Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene to emerge as his Democratic opponent. Update: Reichert 48, DelBene 26 - ouch.

In WA-2 (Everett, Bellevue, and the San Juans), Democratic Congresman Rick Larsen faces four challengers - two Democrats and two Republicans. Most observers expect Snohomish county councilor John Koster to emerge. In 2000, Larsen defeated Koster when it was an open seat. Update: Larsen 44, Koster 41. Another close one, but good news for Larsen.

One thing to note: While many observers will try to make November predictions based on the August results, the primary's actually not a very good predictor. In 2008, Darcy Burner beat Dave Reichert and, sadly, didn't win in the end. And way back in 2000, Larsen lost to Koster in round one, and roared back to win it.

Polls close at 8 p.m., but Washington's not-quite-100% vote-by-mail system has a postmark deadline - so in close races, it can take days for the results to be known.

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    Full disclosure: My firm built Rick Larsen's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    I've learned more about the top-two in Washington. Candidates are allowed to include up to 16 characters to describe the party that they prefer.

    For example, the ballot today will look like

    Patty Murray Prefers Democratic Party

    Dino Rossi Prefers Republican Party

    Clint Didier Prefers Republican Party etc.

    The "prefers" language is Washington State's attempt not to violate the freedom of association clause as interpreted in the past by the SCOTUS.

    I am not sure this is precisely the same system that was on the ballot in Oregon.

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    As an Oregonian working for the WSDCC, I hate this system. I'm still optimistic about the numbers tonight. King County is only 50% reported and if they hold their numbers, Patty may finish over 50% and add in the 3 or 4% of wasted votes for "GoodSpaceGuy" and "Mike The Mover" and she should be in okay shape for the general.

    I'll tell you that the voter enthusiasm gap isn't holding too true. I'm my two LD's, republicans so far only have 1% more of their registered voters turning out.

    I'm anxious for the rest of the results to be processed, would be a major victory to get Patty to peak the 50% mark. But for an estimated 43% it is looking better than predicted.

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      Just wait until school begins and they get another 20,000 registered college students, that'll help as well.

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      OK, but why do you hate the systen? Is it because it gives a voice to non-affiliated voters?

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        Does it really? Only two can run in the general election so you get the democrat and the conservative. You are lacking an independent candidate in the general election, or any other party for that matter.

        It may force people to become more active in the primary to make their voices heard but polarizes the general election.

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    I understand the point. In theory an independent or other candidate could end up in the top 2. But the fact that non-affilifated voters are currently locked out of the primary altogether by the d's and r's allows for strident partisanship from both camps.

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