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

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July 8, 2008 9:30 AM

Political parties say top-two primary may not count

Posted by David Postman

Attorneys for the state Democratic and Republican parties say the upcoming top-two primary violates a federal court order, and could jeopardize the results of both this year’s primary and general elections.

Attorneys for the parties wrote to the state yesterday. The letters were prompted by an order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week that asked attorneys for supplemental briefing materials in the long-standing court fight over the primary. They say that makes clear that the legal fight over the top two is still alive, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

Under the top-two primary, voters can select any candidate on the ballot for each race and the two highest vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of their party affiliation. The old pick-a-party primary required voters to select a party ballot and vote for candidates only from that party.

Democratic Party attorney David McDonald and Republican Party attorney John White said in separate letters that the 9th Circuit order shows that appeals of Judge Thomas Zilly’s 2005 decision are continuing.

Zilly issued an injunction against implementing I-872, the initiative that created the top-two primary. McDonald wrote that the state has made no effort to modify or vacate that injunction. He wrote to state attorneys:

Proceeding with the planned August primaries and November elections in violation of this injunction will expose all of the results to challenge, potentially wasting significant taxpayer resources on elections that have to be redone.

White wrote:

As we have previously advised you: This litigation is not over. No court has vacated the injunction entered by the district court in July, 2005. The injunction against implementing the Modified Blanket Primary is still in effect. Conducting a Modified Blanket Primary in August will be a willful violation of the injunction. In addition to violating the injunction, issuing certificates of nomination to candidates who receive the most votes will constitute an “error” in the administration of the election because the Open Primary is still the law of Washington.

The party attorneys say the state should conduct a pick-a-party, or so-called Montana-style, primary that has been in place since 2004. And that, McDonald wrote, should be the law “until such time, if ever, as the validity of I-872 is fully and finally upheld.” White asked the Attorney General's office to “confirm immediately that the State will adhere to the terms of the injunction, and conduct its August primary in accordance with the Open Primary law.”

The top-two system got the go-ahead in March when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overturning the citizen initiative would have been an "extraordinary and precipitous nullification of the will of the people."

The Supreme Court ruling left open the possibility that the top-two could be challenged after it was implemented and the political parties could show actual harm.

MORE: State election director Nick Handy says the U.S. Supreme Court says the top two is constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in March that Washington's Top 2 primary is constitutional and that Washington may conduct a Top 2 primary.

Accordingly, the state is proceeding to implement a Top Two primary on August 19. The Voters' Pamphlet has been printed and ballots for military voters will be in the mail in the next few weeks.

In summary, the state is proceeding to implement the people's initiative as upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The order from the 9th Circuit, signed by a three-judge panel, says:

Within 30 days of the filing of this order, the parties shall submit supplemental briefs not exceeding 15 pages each addressing the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling in Washington States Republican Party v. Washington, 128 S. Ct. 1184 (2008), on the issues raised but not resolved in the appeal before this three-judge panel. The parties should also address any intervening authority on the ballot access and trademark claims that has been filed since these issues were originally briefed.

The parties are relying, in part, on a footnote in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion. This is Footnote 11:

Respondent Libertarian Party of Washington argues that I-872 is unconstitutional because of its implications for ballot access, trademark protection of party names , and campaign finance. We do not consider the ballot access and trademark arguments as they were not addressed below and are not encompassed by the question on which we granted certiorari: “Does Washington’s primary election system . . . violate the associational rights of political parties because candidates are permitted to identify their political party preference on the ballot?” Pet. for cert. in No. 06-730, p. i. The campaign finance issue also was not addressed below and is more suitable for consideration on remand.

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Posted by Sumner31

10:03 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Give it a rest. The elections belong to the people and we ought to be able to choose who we want, not who the parties give us. I like the idea that more than one republican or democrat is running in some races. I would like it better if both parties faded away quickly.

Posted by RealityCheck

10:14 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Good grief. It's not a 'pick-a-party' primary. A primary is where each party selects who is going to run in the general election. Contrary to the above poster, primaries do NOT belong 'to the people'. They are party functions and solely party functions. If you want to start your own party and nominate a candidate, you're free to do so.

There's been enough confusion over what a primary is. It's not an election. It's the process used by the parties to select their nominees. The state should just butt out and let parties choose their nominees. Both parties would be more than willing to pay to conduct their own process for choosing their own nominees.

That being said, general elections - where you're actually putting someone in office - belong to the people. Do folks truly not get or understand the difference?

Posted by etta

10:16 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Seems like the State Attorney General should have the final say on this.

I think we can all agree that we do not want to vote in an election where our votes aren't counted.

Posted by Christoher

10:17 AM, Jul 08, 2008

A pox on both the parties.

It's time for the state to declare all state positions non-partisan. There is nothing in the federal or state constitutions that requires that elective offices be partisan. Make 'em all nonpartisan, and all this bickering goes away.

The Founders were against faction, and with good reason. Enough is enough.

Posted by Dan

10:21 AM, Jul 08, 2008

In response to Realitycheck: If the primary is strictly a party function, then the parties should pay for it 100%. As soon as they take any tax dollars to fund this primary election, which presently it is completely taxpayer funded, then it does belong to the people.

Posted by Dan Wright

10:40 AM, Jul 08, 2008

The political parties do not own the election process. The people do. If the parties want to control the selction of candidates, then take it out of the publicly managed and financed election system. But if the primary elections are to have meanign the parties need to butt out. Oh, by the way, I suspect the Supreme Court ruling trumps the Circuit Court issues.

Posted by Independent

11:01 AM, Jul 08, 2008

I agree w/others who state that if the parties want to pick their own canidates, then the parties should pay for it 100%. If the parties use taxpayer funds to pay for the primaries, then they belong to the people. I also agree that the Supreme Court probably trumps the Circuit Court!

Agreed: a pox on both parties!!

Posted by Skidmark

11:16 AM, Jul 08, 2008

The political parties should get what they wished for--control of their candidate selection process. So long as every party funds their own processes, including renting schools and other public facilities for their caucuses and meetings.

I don't mind cutting back my voting schedule to only November.

Posted by Michael

11:18 AM, Jul 08, 2008

No, the Supreme Court does NOT trump the circuit court isues. Have you been paying attention at all?? The Supreme Court said ONLY that 'on its face' there was nothing wrong with the top two system and that the parties would have to show harm before the Supreme Court would consider the matter.This leaves a hole in their decision wide enough for a Mack truck to drive through. Further, the Supreme Court DID NOT vacate the injunction preventing the Top Two from happening.

Reality Check, right on. Do I get to vote in another person's union election? No. Do I get to vote for the president of the VFW? No. Why not? Because I am not a member of those organizations. Why do you think you have the right to vote in my party's primary when you are not a member? If you want to be a member, welcome! Declare yourself a {Dem, GOP, Lib, whatever} and vote in the process. If not, butt out. As far as public financing of elections is concerned, I approve of the proces because it allows more particiption. I'm a taxpayer just like you and I APPROVE public funding. And my vote is just as good as yours.

Posted by Kevin Linn

11:18 AM, Jul 08, 2008

I think it is high time the parties in Washington just shut up and start coming up with high quality candidates. They need to start focusing not only on their own agendas but what is best for Washington State. Both parties are too extreme to the outside in a world that gravitates toward the middle. People are looking for honest leaders who will stand up for what is right, regardless of ideology and rhetoric. I want to vote for someone with true courange and integrity. For too long, the parties in Washington State have bullied and cajoled their puppets and the world is not better for it. Both of you, go back to your fundamentals. Go back to the true roots of your parties, extract the extremists from your midst and stop bickering. Grow up, get over it. The free lunch program is over.

Posted by MarkMark

11:19 AM, Jul 08, 2008

It's time all elected offices in the state were made non-partisan. It's time the focus was on a person's qualifications, not which party they kiss up to. Hey Tim Eyeman, how about a new initiative we can all get behind?! It's time to take our government back from these turkeys in both parties.

Posted by theyellowdart

11:28 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Everyone thought the parties were supposed to win the Supreme Court case, but Rob McKenna ended up winning in a 7-2 decision. He'll win again.

It's time for the parties to give up. The primary belongs to the people!

Posted by brp

11:30 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Any party is free to use their own nomination process to determine who they want in the primary. If the two major parties want to invoke their will over the people's, they can pay their own way.

A three part election would work great. Each party has their own nomination process. Then the government has a top-two primary. Then the top-two in a general election.

Posted by Richard Winger

11:33 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Nick Handy is not telling the whole truth. The US Supreme Court said it was not ruling on all the arguments against the "top-two" primary. It didn't deal with the ballot access or trademark arguments because the lower courts had not dealt with them.

The August primary is nothing but a ballot access barrier of approximately 30%. It could be simply cancelled, and all candidates who filed could then run in November. The August primary has no function except to cut certain candidates out of the premier campaign season in September and October.

Posted by brp

11:33 AM, Jul 08, 2008

"Why do you think you have the right to vote in my party's primary when you are not a member?"

Because it is publicly funded.

I am not a member of a party. So I don't get to vote at all in a primary???

Posted by lll

11:40 AM, Jul 08, 2008

What on earth are the Parties doing??? This is a huge waste of taxpayer money. It's time to put the litigators to bed!

Posted by Government doesnt care about you!

11:45 AM, Jul 08, 2008

The whole presidential election process is CROOKED and a JOKE! If it really belonged to the people, then candidates would be nominated and elected by a majority vote, NOT by electoral college representatives. It should not be about who can raise and piss-away the most money, or about selling out to big business interests! It should be about US...THE PEOPLE's WILL!! I am sick and tired of this tyranical elitist system!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by xcountrynomad

11:46 AM, Jul 08, 2008

Congratulations to the parties! As a Seattle resident I want the option to pick from a Republican and a Democrat in November- which will never happen now since it will only be D versus D. Same goes for Eastern Washington- they will get a R versus R. The Blanket Primary and the State just took away my choice. And talk about incumbent protection!

Posted by Alvin

12:05 PM, Jul 08, 2008

This all started because the Parties don't like independent voices. Guess what people; Washington happens to be comprised of a lot of independent voices. The parties will keep fighting as long as they can, but the people are speaking, and as long as they have the will to fight, we the people of Washington will continue until we are heard.

Going back to an open primary is actually my preference. Where I can vote Republic or Democrat, Libertarian or Green to my hearts content, depending on who I feel is the best candidate. That way parties can still have plenty of control, but the people still have a significant say in the process from the beginning.

Posted by Richard Pope

12:07 PM, Jul 08, 2008

The parties are entirely correct on this issue. The district court injunction entered on July 29, 2005 remains in effect, and has not been vacated or modified:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision merely vacated the 9th circuit decision, which upheld the district court injunction on appeal. It is up to the 9th Circuit on how they implement the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Unless and until the 9th Circuit overturns the district court injunction in the still-pending appeal, the injunction remains valid.

Sam Reed is clearly violating the district court injunction by implementing the top two primary. And Rob McKenna -- who totally lacked ANY litigation experience before being elected Attorney General in 2004, has obviously given Reed some totally inept legal advice.

Posted by Jim Morrell

12:16 PM, Jul 08, 2008

I am an independent voter, and while I lean Republican, I still want to be able to vote for someone in another party if I feel they are best qualified.

What don't these two parties get? My freedom of choice is taken away if can I only vote within one party. How does my loss of freedom of choice not violate the Constitution and especially the First Amendment and freedom of speech?

These political parties have only their self-interest in mind and at heart. Allowing for freedom of choice--between parties--is a must.

Posted by Samin

12:40 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Is it any wonder voters are disenfranchised when the rules change every year? And this statement by Realiy Check, regarding primaries not belonging to the people is truly amazing:

"There's been enough confusion over what a primary is. It's not an election. It's the process used by the parties to select their nominees. The state should just butt out and let parties choose their nominees. Both parties would be more than willing to pay to conduct their own process for choosing their own nominees.

That being said, general elections - where you're actually putting someone in office - belong to the people. Do folks truly not get or understand the difference? "

Why even have primaries if the so-called "party" (code word for "good 'ol boys club") chooses the candidates. Next time you want to have a beauty contest (the 2008 presidenial primary here in WA), spend your own damn $10 mil to do it.

Elections used to be for and by the people, and now, sadly, they aren't.

Posted by Turbine

12:55 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Speaking of rules changes, why hasn't Postman commented on the KC CAO decision?

Posted by Bob-o

12:58 PM, Jul 08, 2008

And these parties constantly whining about thier loss of power isn't a waste of taxpayer money?

Ideally, we need the instant-run-off system of piking a list of candidates (ranking them), and the counting process then to count everyone's #1 vote, and if no one wins 50%+1, dropping the lowest candidate, and recounting ballots, and whoever's #1 is now gone, use their #2 vote, and repeat (until we have one candidate with 50%+1 minimum.

That way everyone can vote for thier actual candidate of choice, regardless of party, and still reflect thier current (lessor of two evils) choice as thier #2 selection (etc).

Posted by BacktoReality

12:59 PM, Jul 08, 2008

I keep looking at the Constitution, I can't find where it states that you only have Dems and Repubs. The real problem here are lawyers and judges, who are just lawyers wearing dresses. People will vote for whom they want, we don't need lawyers and judges dictating to the people how to vote. I would love for a strong 3rd party and tell both Dems and Reps to go jump off a cliff.

Posted by Postman

1:14 PM, Jul 08, 2008

RealityCheck and others, the issue isn't just of public financing. I don't vote in the VFW elections, but the state doesn't conduct those elections. Those elections are not done under state law, as the primary is. That could all be changed. But until it is it seems a bit of a red herring to say it is a private matter.

Posted by ken

1:16 PM, Jul 08, 2008

I am so disgusted with our elected officials. If the Republican and Democratic worked as hard while in office to lead and make our lives better as they do trying to defeat the will of the people and working to get elected this could be a wonderful place to live.

Do Nothing is what our government has become. Both parties and all levels of government.

Posted by Nathan in Everett

1:28 PM, Jul 08, 2008

The people should be allowed to make what ever qualifying rules we want in order for private organizations to put their candidates on our ballots for the general election. If those private organizations do not like the rules, then they do not have to participate.

Posted by The truth

1:28 PM, Jul 08, 2008

To RealityCheck----If in fact it is a party function, then they should pay for it and not the tax payers!!!!!!

Posted by The Mery Chippus

1:34 PM, Jul 08, 2008

"Both parties would be more than willing to pay to conduct their own process for choosing their own nominees." Really? I'd love to see that, but I won't hold my breath. I also want general-election ballot access requirements loosened, in that case--otherwise it'll just be the same old boring D vs R all over again.

Posted by Dave Gibney

1:40 PM, Jul 08, 2008

To Government doesnt care about you!

I-872 and previous and subsequent litigation have zero impact on the process for selecting Presidential nominees. Many will be pissed once again in 2012 when hey are asked to designate a party in the Presidential Primary (assuming it happens)

Posted by Tim

1:43 PM, Jul 08, 2008


WTF? I have another screen open trying to post, and have typed "kzqnnt" as prompted at least five times, and all I get is "submission error". What gives?

Posted by Tim

1:47 PM, Jul 08, 2008

To all you whiners above:

1.) We The People have freely chosen to publically underwrite the cost of the primary. If you don't like it, agitate to undo this social, and lawful, commitment. Vote for somebody who vows to eliminate this subsidy....unless, of course:
2.) The current flim flam Reedism system actually limits political choice, and when you get a ballot in November that has you possibly chosing as between two R's or two D's, you will know why. There will be no Greens, Socialists, Libertarians, etc., on the ballot. The fact that you support this lunacy bespeaks of what seems to be a very limited understanding of just what democracy is.

Posted by John Koehler

2:25 PM, Jul 08, 2008

The political parties are cutting their own necks with their hostile take-over bid of the Washington election process. The new top-two primary has added a step to the election process. If a political party wishes to select a candidate to officially endorse, they may do so in any manner of their choosing at their own expense, outside of the primary election. However, they can't deny any other candidate from registering in the primary;and that is what sticks in their craw, the inability to force extreme posiltion polititians down the citizen's throat. Everyone gets full access to the primary, regardless of party endorcement. That includes as many condidates with as many party affiliations as desire to run. That conglomerate of wide choice is winnowed down to two candidates who face off in the general election. Our new top-two system will assure that the candidate that wins is one that broadly appeals to voters, and further weakens the party position in state elections over that they held before they began this attack on the citizens of this state.

Posted by jimvaughnforcongress

3:05 PM, Jul 08, 2008

When I-872 was passed, I decided to run for US Representative. My name is Jim Vaughn, I am a former US Army Major and a candidate for US Representative in the 8th CD. I am a no-nonsense conservative democrat that has been compared to Scoop Jackson. If you were to put a label on me, I would be categorized as a Blue Dog. For those of you who don’t know the history of the Blue Dogs I would like to take moment to fill you in.
In the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, Yellow Dog Democrats were voters in the U.S. Southern states who consistently voted for Democratic candidates. The term arose from the notion that loyal Southern Democrats would vote for a yellow dog before voting for a Republican. The "Blue Dog" moniker was taken by members of The Coalition because their moderate-to-conservative-views had been "choked blue” by their party in the years leading up to the 1994 election.
They were also successful in the November 2004 elections, when three of the five races in which a Democrat won a formerly Republican House seat were won by Blue Dogs. Freshman Blue Dogs in the House are sometimes nicknamed Blue Pups.
The group is often involved in finding a compromise between liberal and conservative positions. Despite the Blue Dogs' differing degrees of economic and social conservatism, they generally work to promote positions within the House of Representatives which bridge the gap between Democratic Party and Republican Party extremes. Blue Dogs are an important swing vote on spending bills and as a result have gained influence in Congress out of proportion to their numbers. They are frequently sought after to broker compromises between the Democratic and Republican leadership, generally lending a more conservative character to US politics.
I have seen Hillary Clinton supporters and delegates placed in a back room at the 8th CD meeting and felt the liberal Progressive Democrats desire to throw the conservatives out of the building. They are by far one of the most narrow minded group of individuals that I have encountered. If you don’t believe in their liberal views they want to set your furniture on fire.
I have spoken to many individuals that are not happy with Dave Reichert and at the same time are not comfortable with Darcy Burner. As a middle of the road conservative, I represent another option. With the Top Two Primary, citizens can now vote for the most qualified person and/or the individual who best represents their views. If elected it is my job to represent everyone (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Muslim, Christian, heterosexual, homosexual) and I favor the idea of everyone having the opportunity to vote for or against me.

Posted by Michael

3:34 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Doesnt matter in this Freakin State, Our Governor was "picked" by the judges after 3 recounts, and the "Homo's" of Seattle help elect the communistic Patty Murray's & Maria Cuntwell!

Posted by Dfjimmycub

3:38 PM, Jul 08, 2008

My comments to attorneys of those parties -- SHUT UP and accept the people who voted for and must respect the voters wishes, STOP WASTING OUR TAXES MONEY!!!!

Posted by jamesb

3:42 PM, Jul 08, 2008


Your post is repugnant and inaccurate. There were two re-counts…not three. The suit brought by the republicans was decided by ONE judge in a county of the Republicans choosing. And what does your post have to do with the subject of this thread?

Is it any wonder democrats continue to win the state house given the idiotic speech of those who oppose them?

Posted by Maxy

3:54 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Thanks to both the republican and democratic leaders they had to fool around with the process that set up years ago and screwed it all up with a plan that suit their needs. You guys are making hard for people to vote and in the process people are hating you guys which is not good for this country!!!

Posted by cocktails42

4:48 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Washington's political parties didn't like the state's Blanket Primary--too democratic for them--so they got the courts to throw it out. Riled voters then responded by adopting the Top Two Primary, which not only allows voters to once again choose among all candidates on the ballot, but adds something new--it virtually guarantees that competition will continue through the November election. (No more situations where only one name appears on the November ballot in districts dominated by one party.) Of course, the party hacks and power brokers hate this system even more than the one they foolishly got rid of in the first place. Losses at the Supreme Court and in two initiative campaigns have not been enough to cause them to give up the fight. Here (it seems) we go again. If the parties push this far enough, we may end up with only non-partisan elective offices in the state of Washington. Wouldn't that be nice!

Posted by outsider

5:00 PM, Jul 08, 2008

The "top two" system is totally unfair, even if it is somehow Constitutional (and how that's possible is beyond me). We have a long, well-established party system in this state and in this country to represent the electorate. How fair is it to create a system that could result in an election between just two members of the same party? Every other party is disenfranchised by such a scenario.
Only in non-partisan races does this make sense. Otherwise, for president or for coroner (a partisan position in my county!), choosing just the top two is a dumb way to elect anybody.

Posted by jeff kraft

5:39 PM, Jul 08, 2008

The voters were given a choice and when the parties didn't like the result the challenged it. I wishi the parties would simply accept the vote of the people on this one.

Posted by hinton

5:59 PM, Jul 08, 2008

To the parties:

Please... PLEASE keep this up!

After the referendum passes making every office in the state that can be, non-partisan... you'll be whining about THAT.

Posted by jack

6:11 PM, Jul 08, 2008

we should be able to choose who we want not just two people but everyone who runs we should be able to vote for. I for one think that is fair instead of limiting us to choices that might not be all the good.

Posted by Richard B

7:01 PM, Jul 08, 2008

it is all BS. am non-partisan and will stay that way; regardless.

Posted by Mike

7:48 PM, Jul 08, 2008

It's long past time for people to realize the parties are in this for their own purposes, not for those of the people of Washington State.

While declaring all offices non-partisan would be better than nothing, I think the root problem is the existence of a primary in the first place.

Technology exists now to make even statewide elections using a preferential ballot system (aka Australian voting system, aka instant runoff) practical and easy. That's the best system, because it doesn't restrict our choices at all. The parties can hold their own nominations if they want and endorse candidates, but there is no reason the non-endorsed candidates can't stand for election anyway. We all get to choose from everyone, without any limiting of our choices at all.

Posted by John Raymond

7:52 PM, Jul 08, 2008

If there was ever a reason to not be a member of the Democratic or Republican party this is it. A small number of people with a overly inflated image of their importance seem bent on telling the rest of us what to think and do. The Supreme Court understood this fact in its ruling.

Posted by upchuck

9:33 PM, Jul 08, 2008

i see a 3rd way out of this... the major issue at hand is the freedom of association for the parties. yes the parties can use nominating conventions to select their candidates before the primary. however, the current situation allows candidates to claim the dem or gop parties even if they are not endoresed by those parties. keep the top two if that's what voters want, but parties should be able to determine who wears their label. just as timex should not be able to call their watches rolex's.

as to all the whining about 2 party control, get real. you can vote for whoever you want, we have greens, libertarians, socialists, even commies listed on nearly every ballot. i blame the media spin and coverage that labels certain candidates as 'viable' and the gullibility of the voters who buy the crap the msm puts out there.

Posted by Peter Ward

10:47 PM, Jul 08, 2008

Reason # 1,000,000 why political parties need to be destroyed.

You are a relic leftover from the dark ages and your desire to get my vote by narrowing my choices further ENRAGES people like me who aren't party lapdogs.


Posted by TobinZ

12:03 AM, Jul 09, 2008

Where does it say the parties control the primary? The purpose of the primary is to whittle down the field of candidates so that the top candidates can go head-to-head.

Parties are merely a way for candidates to 1) organize, 2) collect funds, and 3) provide a basic statement of belief for those too lazy to investigate further.

If we had a top-2 system for president is there any doubt who would have won in 1992 or 2000?

Posted by Richard Shepard

5:56 AM, Jul 09, 2008

Most of those angry with the political parties miss three important points:
1. Even the political parties admit the “top two” primary would be constitutional if it were truly non-partisan. But kicking the parties out and keeping their labels really amounts to theft of their identities.
2. Voter choices are limited at the general election by the single member plurality district, not the closed primary. See,'s_Law.
3. Any election system that weakens political parties strengthens special interests, like the Washington State Grange and the Association of Washington Businesses.

Posted by JimD

9:27 AM, Jul 09, 2008

The party system imposes competition between (at least) two distinguishable camps of organic consensus.
Granted - the well known brand names and monopolistic nature of the two main parties makes it difficult for others to enter the game.
But perhaps stripping away that branding and affiliation risks a more monolithic stacking of the "top two", as the like-minded navigate even less distinguishable political philosophies to the two positions. (dems in western Washington, repubs in eastern, etc)
Wouldn't this "cure" for the two party monopoly actually reduce what little organic diversity they now offer the voters?
After all - the same interests willing to invest in electing a candidate are still going to rally around the same candidate they do now.
The only effective difference is they'd make sure they have a back-up in the second position, right?
Perhaps the top-two concept is a bit short sighted in this regard.
Perhaps the best interest of minority political ideologies in better served by developing a separate consensus identity of its own merits sufficient to compete with republicans and democrats, rather than eliminating what little diversity IMPOSED by our two party system.
I wonder if the proponents of top-two have really thought this through.
For it's not hard to imagine how the powerful players could twist top-two to further squelch what little competition of political ideologies and choice the current status quo imposes on the election process.

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