Supremes to consider Washington open primary

Here at BlueOregon, we've had many debates over open primary concepts -- and many arguments centered on the experience of our neighbors to the north.

This week, there's news that the Washington open primary is heading back to the US Supreme Court (which had struck down an earlier version in 2000.) From the AP:

Washington backers of wide-open primary voting get one last, unexpected shot at making their case for resurrecting the kind of crossover "blanket" balloting that was popular for decades.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take the case that has been brewing for nearly seven years.

The high court agreed to review the constitutionality of Washington's voter-approved "Top 2" primary system in which the top two finishers would advance to the general election even if they are from the same party. Voters thus could choose their favorite for each office, without regard to party label — the essential ingredient of the old "blanket" primary that the federal courts have thrown out.

The justices will hear arguments in the fall term.

The AP does a great job with the backstory. Read the rest. Discuss.

  • (Show?)

    Fingers crossed that SCOTUS doesn't screw this up, but I don't have my hopes up. It's long past time that we had some option other than the unbreakable two-party system and other than hopeless third parties.

  • Voter (unverified)

    Contrary to what Jeff Frane, apparently out of ignorance of our system and history, says, let's hope SCOTUS gets it right by upholding the First Amendment.

    Why is it that too many in the West don't know our country's history, and why the primary system has little to do with the dominance of the two-party system? After awhile one cannot help but wonder if and why this level of ignorance is willfully self-induced.

    First, from the outset of our Republic, for reasons tracing to the nature of political power as organized by our Constitution --- and long before anything remotely like the modern primary system existed --- we have had two-party politics. Over time, the two major parties in any particular election have changed in name and values, and we have always had minor parties. That doesn't change the fact that our national political will is largely expressed in a binary fashion.

    Second, in the NW, third parties can gain access to the ballot relatively easily and, if anything, this system makes it more difficult for minor party candidates to get to the general election ballot. The problem for minor party members is that the majority just does not trust their money and their liberty with any of the current minor parties or their candidates. (It's beyond me why anyone but a moron would trust his/her money or his/her liberty to Republicans in their self-defined neo-facist incarnation today, but that is another matter entirely.)

    Let's hope SCOTUS slams the door once and for all on this idiocy, so we can focus our energy on ending two misguided and now lost wars, fixing our health care system, and rebuilding our broken economy. Given the whacked out performance of the court recently, however, I'm not holding my breath.

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    This gives me an opportunity to pitch a few lectures coming up at Reed College. I'll try to toss Blueoregon a bit of advertising next week.

    On March 19th at 4:15 pm, Ken Mayer of the University of Wisconsin will talk on publicly financed elections, how they are and should be administered, and their impact on candidate emergence.

    On March 28th at 4:15 pm, Todd Donovan of Western Washington University will talk on election reform more generally. Todd is well positioned to speak to the issues raised in this conversation--how we may alter our election laws to encourage third party emergence, how we can increase the competitiveness of congressional elections, and what the impact of referenda and initiatives are on voter attitudes and behavior.


  • Richard Winger (unverified)

    The comment above mentions Professor Todd Donovan. I don't know him, but I do know he was a witness for the State of Alaska, when the Green Party filed a lawsuit attacking that state's definition of "political party". I was a witness for the Green Party in that case. Professor Donovan belitted the Green Party's past ability to poll substantial votes for US House and US Senate in Alaska. The issue was a state law that said only the gubernatorial vote counts, toward determining whether a party polled enough votes to stay on the ballot. In 2002 the Alaska Greens got over 3% for US House but not for Governor, and the Greens argued that any statewide office should count, but Professor Donovan said since the US House race wasn't close, it didn't mean much that Greens did well in that race. In 2006, the Alaska Greens didn't even get 3% for US House (nor did any other Alaska minor parties get 3% for US House), which seems to show Professor Donovan was wrong.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I love politics. Per latest Supreme Court rulings, we need to think of DEM or REPUB labels as "brands" that are owned by their respective parties. If you want to be on the ballot as a DEM or REPUB, you need to meet whatever criteria the "owners" of the "brand" set out.

    A lot of folks wrongly assume they have some right to participate in the selection of who will represent "their party" going into an election. As I understand the current decisions of the Supreme Court, if the DEM party of Oregon decided to hold a tap dancing competition to select the DEM candidate to oppose Gordon Smith, it would be perfectly legal and nobody could object.

    By the way, can Earl B. tap dance?

  • (Show?)

    BlueNote - you're right. Except that the parties don't have some inalienable right to a ballot line.

    <h2>The Oregon open primary would have said, simply, that the top two votegetters in the spring (regardless of party label, or even no party label) move to the fall election. Party's are no longer relevant -- other than as brand names to help voters identify their ideological position.</h2>
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