Grange promises to defend voters' right to vote

Issued: September 15, 2003


OLYMPIA -- Grange leaders expressed disappointment at today's decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to side with the political parties on the blanket primary appeal. The Washington State Grange and the State Attorney General (representing the Secretary of State) had argued in February that Washington's blanket primary should remain intact.

"The Ninth Circuit justices made a fundamental mistake in deciding to go against the will of the people in Washington," said State Grange President Terry Hunt. "Our blanket primary allows voters to choose whomever they want, in complete privacy, without picking a party."

The Grange vowed to preserve the primary system, either with an appeal to the courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, or through the Legislature. Hunt said he will work with Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Christine Gregoire to resolve the problems.

"We would like to appeal and convince the courts that Washington's blanket primary system is basically different from California's old system," said Grange attorney Jim Johnson. "Indeed, Washington's Constitution protects more basic privacy rights than theirs."

The Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties sought to overturn Washington's primary election system after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 found California's blanket primary unconstitutional. In March, 2002, U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess agreed with the Grange and the Secretary of State, and the political parties appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

As the Grange pointed out at the Ninth Circuit appeal hearing, California's "open" primary differed from Washington's blanket primary because Washington does not require voters to register by party affiliation, and has never done so.

The blanket primary withstood two previous challenges in the Washington state Supreme Court, one in 1936 and the other in 1980. The Washington State Grange wrote the original blanket primary initiative in 1934 and it was adopted by the State Legislature the following year.

"The Grange recognizes that Washington citizens want to vote for their choice, not just the choice of the political party bosses," said Hunt. "We will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of Washingtonians."

This year's blanket primary will be unaffected, but the decision goes into effect for the 2004 primary.


For more information contact Larry Clark, Communications Director, (360) 943-9911