'Top two' system likely on fall ballot

JOSEPH TURNER; The News Tribune

June 30, 2004

The Washington State Grange appears to have enough signatures to put its proposal for a "top two" primary election system on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

The Grange delivered petitions with an estimated 230,000 signatures to state elections officials Tuesday and plans to turn in a second batch of about 40,000 signatures later this week.

The deadline for turning in petitions is 5 p.m. Friday. It takes the signatures of 197,734 voters to win a spot on the November ballot.

Campaigns for measures that would boost the sales tax to pay for education and cut local property taxes have scheduled appointments to deliver petitions Friday. Other measures involving smoking bans and health insurance are iffy.

Initiative 872 would establish a primary system similar to the blanket primary that was in effect for nearly 70 years before a federal court ruled it unconstitutional last year. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling earlier this year by refusing to hear an appeal.

The Grange had championed the blanket primary through an initiative in the 1930s. That system allowed voters in September to cast ballots for candidates from different political parties in different races.

The system implemented earlier this year by Gov. Gary Locke and the Legislature for the Sept. 14 primary will restrict voters to one party's slate of candidates for partisan races.

"Voters are going to be in for quite a shock this September when they go to vote in the primary election," said Grange President Terry Hunt. "This only helps our cause on behalf of the people because once they see how the new system infringes on their rights, they're going to turn right around and vote for the 'People's Choice' initiative in November."

Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436

(Published 12:01AM, June 30th, 2004)



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