Thursday, August 20, 2009

Victory in Court Ruling on Top Two Primary

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dwight Pelz <>
Date: Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 6:02 PM
Subject: Victory in Court Ruling on Top Two Primary
To: wsdcc


For Immediate Release
August 20, 2009
Contact: Dwight Pelz, (206) 583-5880

US District Court Rules That Constitutional Challenges to Washington's Top Two Primary Remain

SEATTLE – Judge John Coughenour today denied a motion by the State and the Grange to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the State Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian Parties against the Top Two Primary in 2005, holding that it was clear that some of the Parties' constitutional challenges to the primary system had not been resolved by the US Supreme Court in 2008.

"We are very pleased that Judge Coughenour has agreed with the State Democratic Party that Washington's Top Two Primary may be unconstitutional," said Dwight Pelz, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party.

Coughenour has invited the Plaintiffs (the political parties) to offer further evidence that the Top Two Primary confuses voters about the relationship between the candidates and the political parties.

"The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have alleged as-applied challenges to I-872's modified  blanket primary scheme and that these claims remain unresolved. Plaintiffs may submit evidence to demonstrate that (1) the State's actual implementation of I-872 (including its interaction with the state's campaign disclosure laws) leads to voter confusion, and (2) that this resulting confusion severely burdens the political parties' freedom of association. Plaintiffs may also demonstrate that the application of I-872 to certain elected offices (e.g.,Party PCOs) specifically burdens the party's right to associate. Accordingly, Defendants' motions to dismiss are DENIED with respect to these as-applied challenges."

In addition, Judge Coughenour noted that the way in which the State has implemented I-872 may be "particularly problematic" when precinct committee officer (PCO) elections are taken into account. 

"This order makes clear what we have been saying since March of 2008: I-872 has substantial constitutional defects and Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General have been incorrect in their repeated statements that the US Supreme Court had ruled that I-872 is constitutional," said Pelz. "At a minimum, the State will have to amend the current law."

Unfortunately the District Court agreed with the State that it could, by means of I-872, dramatically increase the burden on third parties' ability to get to the general election ballot. In the 2006 US Senate race, for example, voters in November could vote for a candidate from the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Green Parties. Under the Top Two Primary system minor parties hold out little hope of making it through to the general election ballot. 



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