Opinion

Editorial

"Now that the primary election is over, Secretary of State Ralph Munro plans a tour of the state to seek public input on how to handle future primaries in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year.The high court threw out California's so-called blanket primary, which was identical to Washington's. A blanket primary simply lists all candidates for an office regardless of party and lets the voter pick his or her choice. This drives political parties nuts, as voters can cross over from one party to another, depending upon which candidate is most appealing. More negatively, individual voters can choose to play sneaky politics, voting not for their preference but rather for the other party's weakest candidate, hoping that candidate will advance to the general election and lose there.Washington has had its blanket primary for more than 60 years and giving it up will be difficult. But Munro and party leaders in this state say it is inevitable, and the Legislature will make changes in the 2001 session. We're likely to be asked to make one more choice in the polling place -- for which primary ballot we would like: the Democratic ballot, Republican ballot, or Independent ballot. Therefore, we will be unable to switch between parties in the primary election.This will be a blow to Washington's many independent voters, who sincerely believe they should select the best person for the job regardless of party. As a result, participation in primary elections is likely to plummet. It will also tend to polarize the parties even more, as the large middle ground of independent voters will be gone.What should the Legislature do? The basic goal should be to keep the primary as open and secret as possible. Voters should be able to select their ballot in private, rather than telling a poll worker which ballot they want. What business is it of theirs if we are a Democrat or a Republican? In small communities, this matters to a lot of people. Also, the selection should be kept secret from the political parties. One reason the parties support the closed primary is that in other states, each voter's choice of ballot is a public record, thereby providing an instant mailing list worth thousands of dollars to each party. The Legislature should protect the privacy of Washington's voters by making these lists private.The Supreme Court ruled against our blanket primary, but that does not mean citizens must also give up their right to privacy when voting. The Legislature should keep this thought paramount when deliberations begin in January. "

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