Saturday, August 02, 2008

Top 2 provides little choice

Washington State Primary Has No Function in 3/4ths of Legislative Races

By Richard Winger
June 8th, 2008 , Ballot Access News blog

Washington state is using the “top-two” system for the first time this year. There are 26 State Senate seats up, and 98 State House seats up, for a total of 124 legislative races this year. Filing for the August 19 primary is now closed. Out of the 124 races, the primary is utterly meaningless in 92 races, since there are only two candidates, or only one candidate, running in 92 races.

Formerly, the Washington primary was the device by which major parties nominated their candidates, but it no longer has that function. Instead, the only function of the August 19 primary is to whittle down the number of candidates in the November election to just two. Obviously, when there are just two candidates (or just one candidate) in a particular race, there is no whittling to be done. In other words, in 74% of the legislative races this year, the primary will accomplish absolutely nothing.

Except for the gubernatorial race, there is no federal or state race this year in Washington with more than seven candidates. One wonders why the primary could not simply be canceled, so that all candidates who filed could run in November.

The total number of Democrats and Republicans running in this year’s primary for legislature is 207. Two years ago, when the state was using an open primary, there were 233 Democrats and Republicans running for the legislature. Thus, it seems one effect of the “top-two” system has been to reduce choices for Democratic and Republican voters.

For counting purposes, any candidate who used the word “Democratic” or just “D” was counted as a Democrat, even if the candidate appended other words, such as “True Democrat” or “Progressive Democrat”. Similarly, any candidate who used the term “G.O.P.” was counted as a Republican, and also any candidate who used “Republican” with other words, such as “Republican Tax Cut” was also counted as a Republican.


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