This is usually the time of year when columnists don’t write about politics because nothing is really going on.
But not this year. Washington’s primary elections, which have been held the third week in September for generations, are now scheduled for the third Tuesday in August. And when you enter the voting booth, things will be different.
A half dozen years ago you could vote for your favorite candidate (or the least objectionable) for each office. In November, the top Republican and Democratic vote-getter would then square off, along with the occasional Libertarian or Green Party member.
A Supreme Court decision ended this “blanket” primary system and after several years of legislation and litigation over a ballot measure, here is what we ended up with.
On August 19, you’ll walk into a polling place (or fill out your absentee ballot) and you can still vote for the candidate of your choice. No more ballots with just one party’s candidates to choose from. Every voter gets the same ballot. The ballot will indicate the political party each candidate “prefers”.
But in November, instead of choosing between the standard bearer in each party, you’ll simply choose between the “top two” vote getters, period. That likely means no more Libertarians or Green Party members on the November ballot because they will finish back in the pack in the August. In some legislative districts in Seattle, voters will probably choose between two Democrats in November, because the Republican candidate will likely finish behind the top two Democrats vying for the same office. The opposite will happen in some heavily Republican districts in eastern Washington.
This system allows voters maximum choice without requiring them to register by Party. It applies to all “partisan” races, which means races where people run on a party label or indicate a party preference.
And speaking of political parties …
There will be a ballot measure on August 19 — INITIATIVE 26 — asking whether we should do away with party affiliations for King County Executive, Tax Assessor and the County Council.
The movement toward nonpartisan county races has been building for 20 years and got a shot of momentum in 1997 when it was suggested by a bipartisan commission recommending changes to the King County Charter (the county Constitution). But the County Council has blocked it ever since, so Initiative 26 was crafted to go over the Council’s head and amend the County Charter via a vote of the people.
The Council and Ron Sims have responded by putting an “alternative” proposal on the ballot that changes nothing while claiming to do so. It’s only intent is to confuse the voter.
Voters will be asked which of the two measures, Initiative 26 or the Council-proposed “alternative,” should appear on the November ballot for final approval.
I’ll be supporting Initiative 26. Here’s why: A clankety Democratic Party machine runs King County and it’s engine is based in Seattle. That’s one reason why county government is so wreckless and ham-fisted when it comes to dealing with suburban and rural issues, as we saw with the elections office fiasco of 2004 and the stunningly intrusive Critical Areas Ordinance, which the courts have tossed out as unconstitutional.
It’s time to pull the plug on political partisanship in King County. Yes on Initiative 26.