January 28, 2004

For immediate release


The Washington State Grange testified yesterday against two proposed bills in the state House of Representatives that would significantly reduce voter choice in Washington State.

The two bills were proposed as alternatives in efforts to accommodate the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' recent ruling declaring Washington's current blanket primary system unconstitutional.

House Bill 2767 would establish a closed primary system in which voters would be required to declare political party affiliation at the time of voter registration in order to participate in a particular party nominating process. A voter would then only receive a ballot containing the candidates from that political party, and thus would be restricted from casting a vote for a candidate from another political party. House Bill 2725 would replace the blanket primary system with legally-binding party caucuses in which only members of a particular political party could participate.

"The Grange is very concerned with keeping a system in which the voters are actively involved in the process of deciding which candidates get on the general election ballot for partisan offices," said Grange representative Don Whiting at yesterday's hearing.

"The problem with either of these approaches is that they would eliminate too many citizens in this state from the process," continued Whiting.

Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia) questioned the Grange's opposition, remarking that the voters didn't care enough about the process to participate in the first place.

"There is obviously not the interest and the demand for the blanket primary when [62.5 percent] of the voters choose not to vote in it," contended Hunt.

"If you compare the primary turnout in even years in all states," responded Whiting, "the states with blanket primaries have a higher average turnout than anyone else. So although it's not what anyone in the elections business would like to see, it is still a better turnout than you get in a closed primary."


For more information, contact David Burr, Communications Director, (360) 943-9911.