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

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March 28, 2008 10:07 AM

What the top-two primary might look like

Posted by David Postman

There may be just two weeks until the next round of litigation over Washington’s primary election. The Secretary of State’s office is working on draft rules setting out how the August top-two primary will be run.

Secretary of State Sam Reed will allow candidates to list a party preference next to their names on the ballot. But the Democratic and Republican parties will not be able to show on the ballot which candidate is their officially endorsed candidate.

Assistant Director of Elections Katie Blinn was on a teleconference with party attorneys this week to tell them what Reed planned on doing. She said it was not a very fruitful conversation and the parties remain opposed to the top-two primary. They're likely to file suits to stop the primary. Blinn told me yesterday:

As soon as we put out that draft version we’ll be back in court.

It will take at least two weeks until that draft is ready to be circulated.

Blinn sent an e-mail this week to legislative caucus staff outlining what the primary might look like. See the full e-mail after the jump:

A few of you have emailed me with questions regarding implementation of the Top Two Primary, I-872. Our current plan is to circulate some draft implementing WACs for comment and feedback by next week. The WACs that we ultimately adopt will have to be adopted by emergency rules because the normal rulemaking process takes 6 months. Candidate filing actually begins in 7 weeks, when declarations of candidacy may be accepted by mail. We are in discussions this week with the parties and the County Auditors’ Offices regarding what is feasible. Our focus will be to inform candidates that they can list on the ballot the name of a party that they prefer, and to convey to voters that this information does not mean that the party prefers that candidate. You are probably getting questions from the legislators on the filing process. Here are a few points:
Points for Prospective Candidates
File the declaration of candidacy as usual.
  • No nomination or endorsement by the party either before or after filing is required.
  • Minor party and independent candidates do not have to conduct conventions or gather signatures; just file a declaration of candidacy.
  • The declaration of candidacy and the ballot will list the political party that the candidate “prefers”.
  • The ballot and the voters’ pamphlet will explain that the fact that a candidate expresses a preference for a particular party does not mean that the candidate is endorsed or nominated by that party, is a member of that party, or represents that party.
  • Even if a candidate is nominated or endorsed by a party, that will not be specially designated on the ballot. However, the candidate is free to mention that in the voters’ pamphlet and other political advertising.
  • In the event that no Democrat or Republican files for a particular race, the party can no longer fill a vacancy on the party ticket. There is no major party ticket anymore. There will only be a special filing period if no candidate files at all, which is a void in candidacy.
  • If no candidate at all files for a particular race, then that race will be re-opened for a special filing period.
  • Even if only one candidate files, that race will appear on the primary election ballot. (I am still checking on this one. RCW 29A.52.220 says that there is no primary in a nonpartisan race if only one or two candidates file- the race skips to the General. I don’t think that this was changed in I-872 to include partisan races.)
I will try to keep you informed as the process moves along. I apologize that it is taking me some time to respond to your email. Thanks!

Katie Blinn
Assistant Director of Elections
Office of the Secretary of State

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