Pierce County and the Port of Tacoma
Last week, Pierce County had three candidates (Julie Anderson, Will Baker, and Jan Shabro) file to run for Auditor, but will save the expense of a primary. The Port of Tacoma, a countywide organization, had three candidates (Bernardo Tuma, Connie Bacon and Bill Casper) file to run for one of their Port Commission positions and will receive a bill for having a primary...probably around $350,000.
Pierce County is using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to elect its Auditor. RCV combines the primary and general elections into one election in November. Since the county itself will not participate in the primary, it will not receive a bill for the primary.
The Port of Tacoma has been forced to use a non-partisan Top 2 system to elect its Port Commissioners. Under this system, if more than two candidates file to run for one of the Commissioner positions, the Elections Department will run a primary for the Port and send them a bill for doing so. In 2007, the bill was $327,000. This year it should be slightly more due to fewer jurisdictions sharing the cost of the primary.
The non-partisan Top 2 system penalizes jurisdictions with more candidates and more civic involvement. This is a strange incentive system for political entities. RCV, on average, ends up with more candidates, but does not cost the entity more money for a primary. Using RCV would save the Port significant money which could be used to keep people on the payroll instead of having to lay off as many workers.