Primary Dolors

Someone forgot to tell me Sept 14 was Free Your Inner Idiot Day.

Today is Washington state's primary election. Notice that it takes place late in the season after the major party's nominating conventions; this is because Washington's previous open primary was declared unconstitutional. The Democrats weren't going to use the primary to nominate presidential candidates anyway - preferring instead to caucus in private months ago (so whomsoever wields the most influence and holds the strongest cards gets whatever they want) and Republicans didn't have a lot of debate about their presidential nominee, but I presume they went ahead and rented some space and expensed out some nice catering. So the presidential primary was cancelled. Washington voters who had an opinion apparently needed to keep it to themselves.

Washington now has a "Montana-style" primary, wherein voters must declare a party affiliation on the ballot, and then may only vote within that party for that ballot. In other words, you declare a Republican affiliation, you only get to vote for Republican candidates in races where Republicans are running. Same for Democrats and Libertarians. (No other party affiliations - Reform, Green, Independent, Sunflower Seed Spitters, whatever - are available. However, non-partisan offices - superintendent of schools, some judgeships, etc., are still open to all.) Selection of party affiliation is supposedly private, but that's pretty much a crock: all ballots are serialized, and they know what ballot number went to which registered voter and what affiliation was declared on each ballot. Matching those up can't be too hard.

And, in fact, that matching will probably be the undoing of Washington's brand-new primary system. See, the open ballot was held unconstitutional by a Federal appeals court because California adopted a similar system, and the political parties complained that voters were crossing over to other parties as spoilers to dilute and distort the vote for another party's candidates. The federal court apparently agreed - saying that the open primary violated the party's rights of association - and struck down the California primary. After that, knocking down Washington's primary (which had never been challenged in the state previously) was a trivial legal matter. So the parties seized the opportunity and did it.

Now the major politcal parties are complaining that, unless they can match up party affiliation to voter rolls, cross-over and spoiler voting is still possible, and their freedom of association is still threatened. What they want to do is make sure only registered party members can vote for candidates of that party.

I've never been a joiner - I don't even play in a band, or have a supermarket member card - but I want to know why my tax dollars are funding private organizations' "right of association."

Voter turnout today is projected to be about 30 percent. Well, duh.

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