The election season is approaching and the state’s two major political parties are in a twitter.
The reason? We have a new primary system this year and there’s no longer a guarantee that both a Democrat and a Republican will make it to the November General Election ballot.
In the past, people would file for office, most of them Democrats and Republicans. The primary election would be held and the top Democrat and top Republican would move on to the general election. Sometimes a minor party candidate would qualify, too.
That’s now changed.
The new system is called a Top Two Primary. People still file for office, but in partisan races (County Council, Legislature, Congress), there’s no guarantee that a Democrat or Republican will make it to the general election.
Instead, the top two vote getters move on. That could be two Democrats or two Republicans.
In liberal Seattle, Democrats rule the roost. Republican candidates often are an after-thought – if that. In Eastern Washington, it’s often the reverse. That area is more conservative and that usually means Republicans get the votes.
In the suburbs, we’ll likely see spirited races involving both Democrats and Republicans. This area has elected both for a number of offices.
The parties say this change will confuse the voters.
We don’t see how.
The system of moving the top two vote-getters on to the general election has been done for years. We do it in city council races, for school boards, and any number of smaller, local elections. Somehow, government continues to function.
State voters approved our Top Two Primary in 2007 when they passed I-872. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld the system after the political parties went to court to stop it.
The only real difference this year is that the primary election no longer is the nominating election for the Democrats and Republicans. In fact, a D or R won’t necessarily appear after someone’s name on the ballot at all. If a person is a Democrat or Republican, they can indicate that on the ballot, put it in the voters pamphlet or inform the voters of that when they campaign.
If the Democrats or Republicans want one of their own on the general election ballot, they should make certain to offer voters strong candidates.
No one deserves a place on the general election ballot just because they’re a Democrat or Republican. What that election should be – and now will be – is a contest between the two candidates who can best make their case to the voters.
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