NEWS RELEASE                                            MARCH 23, 2001          

Grange questions April hearing date in blanket primary litigation
Washington State Grange Master Terry Hunt today questioned the April 27 hearing
 date proposed by the major political parties in the federal litigation over the
 blanket primary.

"The political parties agreed last year that the Secretary of State and the
 Attorney General would not be required to submit briefs and motions until at
 least thirty days after the end of the regular Legislative session or thirty
 days after the Legislature amends the current law," said Hunt. "Since the
 session will not conclude until April 22, and the Legislature has taken no
 action on the primary, we do not understand how the parties can request an
 April 27 hearing."

The parties have also requested the Court make a partial ruling allowing them to
 nominate candidates to appear directly on the 2001 general election ballot, if
 the Secretary of State has not provided for a system of party declarations by
 voters at the primary and other procedures by May 1.

"The May 1 deadline is not necessary, because county auditors would not need the
 names of the candidates selected by the parties until mid-September," said
 Hunt. 

Hunt agrees with statements released by Secretary of State Sam Reed and the
 Attorney General's office, declaring the demands made by the political parties
 in Federal District Court are not required by the U.S. Supreme Court decision
 that invalidated California's blanket primary system last summer. The parties
 are calling for voter registration by party, declarations of party affiliation
 and separate party ballots at all future primaries. 

"We do not understand why the parties are trying to push the Court into imposing
 these procedures on the voters for the 2001 primary," said Hunt. "The Federal
 District Court does not need to completely rewrite Washington primary election
 laws to satisfy last year's Supreme Court ruling."

The Grange continues its signature drive for I-751, which would preserve the
 existing blanket primary by allowing parties the opportunity to select
 "official" candidates for partisan office. According to Hunt, that alone is
 enough to satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. Hunt and Jane Hodde are
 also interveners in the Federal District Court case, providing a voice for
 Washington's voters and fighting to preserve the blanket primary the Grange
 enacted in 1935 through Initiative Measure No. 2.

In the case, the Grange may suggest the political parties be allowed to nominate
 party candidates prior to the filing period for the 2001 election. If the
 Legislature does not make other changes to the nominating procedures for
 partisan offices, the state could use a nonpartisan blanket primary in which
 the top two or three candidates at the primary would advance to the general
 election. This change would be far simpler for the voters, said Hunt.

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