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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Washington Crossed Over But May Be Sent Back

This is a follow-up to the October 15, 2004 post on this blog, "Will Washington (and California) Cross the Rubicon?"

On November 2, 2004, California voters defeated Proposition 62, an initiative for a Louisiana-style "top two" election system. Some 54 percent voted "no" as the measure lost in 51 of the state's 58 counties. This means that the Golden State will keep its semi-closed primary, which allows registered independents to vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary in congressional and state elections.

Apparently, a big factor in this outcome was the fact that California has voter registration by party. Partisan Republicans and Democrats did not like the possibility that under Prop. 62, the two final candidates can be from the same party. Members of minor parties opposed the measure because it would make it nearly impossible for their candidates to reach the final election.

Richard Winger, a Californian who publishes Ballot Access News, comments, "The minor parties probably helped defeat Prop. 62 slightly, but the most important factor in the defeat of Prop. 62 was that the California Democratic and Republican Parties put their muscle in play against it, with door hangers, recommendations against it by unions, associations of ethnic and racial minorities, business associations... all the groups that are closely linked to state legislators. The state legislators were almost unanimously opposed to Prop. 62. On the other hand, the governor was for it, as were most big newspapers."

Voters in Washington state, however, approved a similar proposal, Initiative 872. Nearly 60 percent said "yes" as the Top Two carried all 39 counties. This was not surprising, since Washington has a long history of letting voters cross party lines in the first round of voting.

As promised, the state's political parties filed a federal lawsuit (Washington State Republican Party v. Logan) against Initiative 872. On July 15, 2005, U. S. District Judge Thomas Zilly struck down the Top Two and ordered that the state continue using the Montana-style system of separate party primaries. The state and the Grange have appealed to the Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

[The posts of February 28, 2006 and September 20, 2005 on this blog are also relevant to this topic.]

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