News Release                                                    March 28, 2002

WASHINGTON STATE GRANGE AND STATE DEFEND PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO BLANKET PRIMARY

"The vision of the Grange to preserve the rights of voters has lasted 67 years,"
 said Washington State Grange Master Terry Hunt. "As long as political parties
 attack the blanket primary, the Grange will defend the people's right to choose
 their candidates."

Federal District Court Judge Franklin D. Burgess ruled quickly and decisively
 yesterday in favor of the Washington State Grange and the Secretary of State,
 affirming that Washington's blanket primary is constitutional. The Democratic
 and Republican parties sought to overturn Washington's primary election system
 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 found California's blanket primary
 unconstitutional.

"The political parties' evidence that there is a burden on their constitutional
 right of association is, for the most part, incompetent and inadmissible, and
 at best, it is insubstantial and speculative; the political parties have failed
 to carry their burden of proof," said Burgess.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and State Attorney General Christine Gregoire
 applauded the Washington State Grange for pressing the effort to preserve the
 blanket primary.

"The Grange supported us from the beginning," said Reed. "This is a victory for
 the people of Washington who overwhelmingly support the blanket primary."

"Maybe some politicians and party leaders were caught off guard by yesterday's
 decision upholding Washington's blanket primary," said Hunt, "but from the
 beginning, we were confident that we would win. In 1936, and again in 1980, the
 Washington Supreme Court upheld the people's choice of blanket primary laws in
 this state because the political parties could not show any damage to the party
 system. Now, the Federal District Court is just telling them the same thing."

The Washington State Grange, original author of the blanket primary in 1934,
 successfully defended the state's primary system last year when political
 parties attempted to force legislation modifying the primary. The battle
 continued in court, where the Grange took the lead in presenting evidence to
 retain the blanket primary.

As the Grange pointed out in the court motion, California's blanket primary
 differed from Washington's blanket primary because Washington does not require
 voters to register by party affiliation. Judge Burgess ruled in agreement 
with the Grange that the political parties failed to prove any injury to their
 right of association.

The Grange originally proposed a blanket primary to promote the right of voters
 to choose candidates and the right to vote without divulging party affiliation. 

"Part of constitutional protection, is the right of each voter to participate in
 the primary without disclosing his or her party affiliation," said State Grange
 Attorney Jim Johnson. "If the blanket primary is replaced, party ballots would
 violate voters' absolute secrecy in elections."

In his opinion, Judge Burgess ruled that the "Secretary of State and the Grange
 have demonstrated that Washington's blanket primary is a constitutional
 exercise of the State's power to regulate elections, as they have shown that
 the political parties have failed to come forth with sufficient evidence to
 prove the blanket primary's unconstitutionality."

Judge Burgess also confirmed that the Grange's First Amendment rights as a non-
partisan association to vote for candidates of either party outweigh the
 "arguable impacts on the political parties' associational rights."

Eliminating the blanket primary would likely cause a decrease in voter turnout
 as well. When California's blanket primary was replaced last year with a
 closed, party-based primary system, voter turnout percentage for primary
 elections hit its lowest point in history.

"If the blanket primary was eliminated in Washington, we would probably see not
 only a drop in primary election voter numbers, but also a fall in voter turnout
 for the general election," said Johnson.

####