NEWS RELEASE

January 8, 2004

For immediate release

GRANGE FILES INITIATIVE TO PRESERVE STATE'S PRIMARY SYSTEM

Washington State Grange President Terry Hunt filed an initiative today with the Secretary of State to protect the state's primary system from attacks by the major political parties.

"This is basically a back-up plan in case the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't accept our request for review of the Ninth Circuit Court decision against Washington State's blanket primary," said Hunt. "We believe that the Supreme Court will eventually uphold our blanket primary, but we need to be prepared if that does not happen.

"We hope to know by March whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the blanket primary case. If they do hear the appeal, then everything will be on hold until next year," Hunt pointed out.

"For seventy years under the blanket primary system, the voters of this state have chosen which candidates advance to the general election ballot. Now the major political parties are trying to take that away from the voters. This proposed initiative will ensure that the candidates who appear on the general election ballot are those who have the most support from the voters -- not just the support of the political party leadership."

The voters of Washington overwhelmingly support the blanket primary. In a blanket primary, the voter does not have to declare political party affiliation at any stage of the process and may vote for any candidate for any office on the primary ballot.

"The major political parties are going to try to convince the Legislature and the public that the only way to change the primary system is to restrict voters' choices in the primary and to force independent voters out of the primary altogether," Hunt explained. "This is simply not true. We can continue to have all of the benefits of the blanket primary, including the right of a voter to pick any candidate for any office."

The proposed initiative would replace the current nominating system with a qualifying primary, similar to the nonpartisan primaries used for city, school district, and judicial offices. As in those primaries, the two candidates who receive the greatest number of votes would advance to the general election. Candidates for partisan offices would continue to identify a political party preference when they file for office and that designation would appear on both the primary and general election ballots.

"We want the Legislature to know that there are alternatives to the restrictive proposals the political parties are trying to push," Hunt said. "And we want the voters to know that they can continue to have a primary where they choose the candidates that go on the general election ballot. If the Court rules against the blanket primary and the Legislature doesn't adopt a system that preserves the rights that voters now enjoy under the blanket primary, we are ready with an initiative that will do just that."

The Washington State Grange is the key player in efforts to retain the state's decades-old blanket primary. The current primary system -- which is being attacked in court by the political parties -- was put into place due to Grange action in the 1930s.

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For your information, the following background information has been placed on our website:

  1. The text of the initiative filed today (http://blanketprimary.org/text.php)
  2. A FAQ page answering many questions about our primary (http://blanketprimary.org/faq-jan2004.htm)
  3. A chart showing differences between Washington State's primary and those of other states (http://blanketprimary.org/comparison.htm)