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

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March 19, 2008 3:05 PM

Did political parties misread court’s primary decision?

Posted by David Postman

That’s what the News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan says. At the TNT political blog, Callaghan says a careful read of yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the top two primary doesn’t invite further court action, but outlines how to conduct the election within the Constitution.

Rather than saying they will wait to see how the law in put into practice, the justices gave the state a road map for implementing Top Two in a way that will meet their approval.

Callaghan includes the important passages from the decision that show the path to follow. Now, how carefully do you think that map will be followed?

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Posted by Timothy

6:50 PM, Mar 19, 2008

I can't see the distinction that Callaghan is making between what Esser (and Pelz) are saying and what the Justices he was quoting is saying. They're both saying that if the State doesn't design a valid ballot, one which clearly distinguishes the official choices of the party, then this issue could end up back at the Supreme Court.

Posted by Dave M

12:02 AM, Mar 20, 2008

It looks to me like both party organizations are "Hoist on their own petard". (blown up by their own bomb). They got this whole mess started by their own selfish and controlling interests to force us poor ignorant citizans into molds of their making.

This is supremely lovely blowback. don't yopu love it.

Dave Mitchell

Posted by Con Law II and a half

9:19 AM, Mar 20, 2008

One interesting thing is that the Roberts-Alito concurrence was much more direct in saying, "you have to do more than just put 'D' or 'R' by the names on the ballot in order to protect the parties' association rights, or we'll overturn the law if it comes up again."

However, that may not have much punch in practice, or in a lower court trying to apply the decision in a later "as-applied" challenge by the parties if they don't like the ballot design. Because, even if Roberts and Alito were to defect, there are still five votes for only the majority opinion.

I think the state will probably follow the majority opinion closely, making some effort to clarify that the ballot reflects the candidates' preferences. The parties might or might not sue, but if the state does even a decent job they'll lose.

Also, the parties aren't defenseless. The parties still can potentially bring trademark and other such IP claims against disfavored candidates "misappropriating" their names and symbols, which the Court recognized.

Posted by Hinton

8:32 PM, Mar 20, 2008

Absolutely serves both parties right.

Posted by R. Travaille

9:37 AM, Mar 21, 2008

"Blanket Primary" now singing to the leaders of both Parties--Toby Kieth's song--"How do Ya Like Me Now?"

Posted by dltooley

10:32 AM, Mar 21, 2008

There is more to this story, but let's hope that it is, historically, nothing more than a footnote.

Callaghan, as usual, gets it right.

It may well turn out that we have a third phase to the election process, a pre-primary party caucus phase.

In the end, having a true primary open to all to vote their hearts will be a good thing - unless some bureaucrat somewhere tries to sabotage same. Perhaps most importantly we will no longer have a system of representation that includes all who paid for it and not excepting that 40% of the population who chose to identify as 'I' people. Or, for that matter, those party members who choose, occassionally, to crossover.

Making tough, realistic choices is important too, and and needing to do same, in the final is also a good thing.

There is a valid concern about troublemaking, attempting to split the ballot by fake candidacy's. A pre-primary caucus would reduce that risk - as would good reporting. Also of interest will be the way Pierce County's ranked choice voting works with this requirement.

Posted by Steven Pyeatt

11:37 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Despite what people think this is going to hurt the voters.

We saw in 2005 how the parties will deal with this. They will hold conventions, select the candidate to represent them in the primary, and will block anyone from using the party label that wasn't selected by the party at the convention.

Neither party is going to risk having two of their own party battling it out in a general election. It is just not going to happen.

This will put two, and only two, on the primary ballot unless the person runs as an independent or 3rd party member.

I loved the blanket primary, hated the "pick a party" primary, but I understand why the parties want to protect their "brand name". Like it or not the Democrat or a Republican labels belong to the parties and they have the right to control who uses them.

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