April 22, 2004

For immediate release


The Washington State Grange filed a lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of Governor Locke's section veto of legislation concerning the new primary system in Washington State.

Engrossed Senate Bill 6453 would have enacted a qualifying -- or "top-two" -- primary, according to the restrictive title of the bill. However, the bill also contained a provision in it stating that if certain political party lawsuits were successful, the state would revert to an open -- or "Montana-style" -- primary system.

Governor Locke's veto of the top-two section of the bill appeared to leave Washington voters with a Montana-style primary system which requires voters to select a party ballot at the primary.

"The Governor completely changed the intent of the legislation," said Grange Spokesman Don Whiting. "The bill has a restrictive title -- "An Act Relating to a Qualifying Primary." The Governor vetoed everything about the qualifying primary out of the bill. Without these vetoed sections, the remainder of the bill is not constitutional.

"The restrictive title provision was included in the state constitution precisely to prevent the Governor from exercising this kind of veto. He went beyond the scope and subject the House and Senate intended. Many legislators who supported this bill relied on the restrictive title to protect their intent."

According to Article 2, Section 19 of the Washington State Constitution, "[n]o bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."

Citing a number of cases, including those from 2000 (State v. Thomas) and 1998 (Patrice v. Murphy), the Grange is asserting that the open primary provisions in the bill do not fall within the single-subject of what is defined as a "qualifying primary."

Lending support to the lawsuit are Senators Joyce Mulliken (R-Ephrata) and Tim Sheldon (D-Hoodsport), as well as Rep. Fred Jarrett (R-Mercer Island). A number of other legislators may join the lawsuit.


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