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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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February 13, 2008 3:55 PM

Angry voters protest party oaths

Posted by David Postman

Election officials are predicting a record turnout for Tuesday’s presidential primary. Secretary of State Sam Reed says he expects about 47 percent of registered voters to turn in ballots.

But even if the half-meaningless primary hits that mark, it will happen after generating plenty of anger among voters. The presidential primary ballot requires voters to sign an oath of loyalty to the Democratic or Republican parties in order to be able to vote in that party’s primary. That’s true even though Democrats won’t use the primary results in determining presidential delegates.

Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, a Republican, said that voters’ frustration has evolved over the short history of the primary. In 1992 and 1996, she said, “it was just brutal and voters took it out on our office.”

In 1996 and 2000, voters could choose an “unaffiliated ballot” that allowed them to vote for a presidential candidate though it would not be counted in the party’s official tally. In those years, Wyman said, there was more acceptance of the primary and voters had become somewhat philosophical about the process.

Now, though, there are no unaffiliated ballots, people are confused about the role of the caucus and the primary and which party is doing what. Some voters are balking at having to sign a loyalty oath.

“They’re angry about it,” Wyman said. And that’s particularly true, she said, for long-time state residents who are not used to party registration that is the practice most every other place in the country.

Thousands of ballots statewide will not have presidential votes counted because voters did not sign the oath, a problem King County has experienced.

Other ballots will go uncounted because voters scrawled on their ballot envelope to modify the oath or to write in their own protest. Earlier today I went to the Thurston County elections office and looked through ballots returned with hand-written protests.

Some, like this one, are brief and written in neat handwriting:

I am offended signing any oath!

No Christian should sign any oath!

Some voters just crossed out the oaths. One voter filled the bubble next to the Democratic Party oath, but wrote:

I am not a member of either party. Nor do I “consider” myself to be a member of any party. I vote with my mind mind. Not by party.

I believe it to be an injustice in this democratic “land of the free” to be told we can vote only for candidates of one party or the other. I believe we should be allowed, and encouraged, in this ‘free” country to vote for the candidate we believe to be best qualified - We are not voting for parties!.

This voter drew his own bubble, filled it in, and wrote next to it:

The Libertarian Oath: I declare I consider myself to be a Libertarian and I am FREE.

The Libertarian was one of several who also used swear words to make their protest. The election worker who had to sit and watch me as I went through the ballots said she used to get upset at some of what she read, but now there's little that shocks her.

One voter simply wrote:

NO

One crossed out the party names and wrote “independent.” One wrote "none of your business." One crossed out the oaths and wrote,

“This is crap.”

In thick, black, marker, one wrote:

I will not vote if I must choose a party.

Some voters wrote their protests on a piece of paper and included it in the envelope with their ballot. This one was rubber-stamped: "In God We Trust."

I just wasted $ .41 cents postage and the Democratic/Republican and other party have wasted thousands on ballots that don’t count because the caucus is the deciding factor for those running for office.

There was this:

I consider myself an independent voter. I resent losing my constitutional right to vote for the candidate of my choice and should not have to indicate party affiliation. The voting system should be changed!

One would-be voter wrote a note in perfect cursive on lined stenography paper. The i's were dotted with little circles:

I will not limit my vote by party therefore I will send all ballots. PERIOD!

Surprising for a collection of angry notes, there were few written all in caps like this one:

I

AM REFUSING TO VOTE IN THE PRIMARY ELECTION BECAUSE I BELIVE THAT IT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL TO REQUIRE ME TO CHOOSE A POLITICAL PARTY IN ORDER TO VOTE.

I WILL NOT VOTE IN ANY ELECTION THAT REQUIRS ME TO CHOOSE A POLITICAL PARTY. I BELIEVE AS A U.S. CITIZEN I HAVE TH ERIGHT TO SAY VOTE FOR WHOEVER I CHOOSE, BE IT DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN OR NON PARTISAN.

I AM ASKING THAT IN ALL FUTURE PRIMARY ELECITONS THE DECLARATION OF PARTIES BE REMOVED FROM THE BALLOT.

And this was the longest, and most thoughtful protest I saw. It was written in neat handwriting. (Election officials said the law prohibits copying ballot envelopes so I could only take notes.)

The voting rights of this country are being taken away from us by both parties. I am angry voter at this point because I do not want to declare a party. I choose the person and not the party. But in this election year I do not see anything in the Democratic party that interests me. Therefore I am declaring to the Republican Party this year only.

It is a terrible shame that we can not as an American law abiding citizen vote our consciences without having to register with a party.

Sad Business

Our forefathers are turning over in their graves.

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