The Latest On Washington’s “Top Two”

This is the first year that Washington state will use a Louisiana-style “top two” system to elect its state and congressional officials, and the first round is set for August 19 (this system is popularly called the “open primary” in Louisiana and Mississippi: all candidates, including independents, are listed on a single ballot, and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff). The “top two,” however, is facing continuing litigation brought by three of Washington’s political parties. According to Ballot Access News:

“The 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now received briefs from all sides in the ongoing lawsuit over the “top-two” election system. The Democratic Party of Washington, the Republican Party of Washington, the Libertarian Party of Washington, the Secretary of State, and the Grange have all expressed themselves. No one expects the 9th Circuit to stop the Washington state primary, which is set to be held in two weeks. Probably a decision will be in 2009.”

The 9th Circuit’s ruling, to be sure, may be appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). When the SCOTUS gave the go-ahead to the “top two” last March, it left the door open for an “as-applied” challenge following Washington’s first use of the system.

Backers and opponents of Oregon’s “open primary” initiative, which will appear on the Beaver State’s November 4 ballot, are closely watching the Washington state litigation.

Louisiana has used the “open primary” for its state and local elections since 1975, and I continue to be amazed that the courts considering the Washington “top two” have not been presented with evidence as to how it has worked in the Bayou State.

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