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  Parties will sue over [WA] primary
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Last EditedRP  Apr 27, 2005 01:56pm
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News DateWednesday, April 27, 2005 02:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionThe state Republican and Democratic parties plan to sue in the coming weeks to overturn the primary election system voters approved overwhelmingly last fall.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in federal court, will mark the latest round in the parties’ battle to shape the state’s primary election system.

Though it likely won’t be resolved before the Sept. 20 primary elections, the lawsuit could have long-term implications on elections in Washington and other states.

In the meantime, in the eight counties holding partisan elections this fall, the parties are trying to bypass the September primary, the first one under the new Top Two system. Instead, they’re pledging to use caucuses and conventions in which party activists pick candidates.

“That’s not what the voters thought they were voting for,” said Chris Vance, the state Republican Party chairman. “And that’s not what we want. That’s not what anyone wants.”

Vance and state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt say the Top Two primary violates the parties’ right to control which candidates can call themselves Republicans or Democrats.

The same issue was at the heart of the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties’ 2000 lawsuit that overturned the popular blanket primary system. The system, used in Washington for almost 70 years, allowed voters to skip around the ballot without regard for party affiliation.

Legislators and then-Gov. Gary Locke replaced it with a system patterned after Montana’s in which voters had to chose one party’s ballot.

But many voters bristled last September at having to chose a party.

In November, they voted 60-40 to approve Initiative 872, which in some ways mimics the blanket primary. It will allow voters to pick candidates from any party. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election, much like in nonpartisan races for city council.
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