Will application of Washington state law keep third party candidates off the ballot?

According to the Seattle Times, it probably will. Background:

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Tuesday shoved Washington politics into a strange realm where two candidates from the same party could run against each other in the November election.

The decision also means minor political parties could largely vanish from the general-election ballot. And it may help more moderate candidates win office.

All of that, and perhaps more, stems from the 7-2 ruling that upholds a top-two primary system approved by state voters in 2004.

“This is a very big deal for the state of Washington,” Secretary of State Sam Reed said, adding he expects the decision to fundamentally change politics in the state.

Only one other state — Louisiana — uses a similar primary system in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The Supreme Court decision caps — for now — nearly eight years of litigation over whether voters should be able to vote for any primary candidate, no matter which party they claim.[...]

But there’s a twist. The new primary will send the top two vote-getters to the general election, regardless of party.

That means two Democrats, or two Republicans, could run for the same seat in November.

The impact (from the article):

  • Yet a review of past primaries shows that since 1972, there were 10 instances — including three governor races — in which the top two vote-getters for statewide offices were from the same party. It’s happened nine times in congressional or U.S. Senate races. In all but two of those cases, the top two candidates were Democrats.

    The most significant example was in the 1980 governor’s race, when the top two vote winners in the primary were Democrats Jim McDermott and Dixy Lee Ray. Republican John Spellman, who went on to beat McDermott in the general election, was in third place.

  • “A lot of people who have been running virtually unopposed in November will probably not be running unopposed anymore,” Donovan said.
  • Tuesday’s ruling also was a blow for third-party candidates. Democrats and Republicans are likely to be the top vote-getters in most races.

    “This pretty well wipes out the third parties … in terms of getting on the general-election ballot,” said Ruth Bennett, who was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor in 2004.

  • Paul Berendt, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, predicts the new primary will mean more moderate candidates will be elected because voters from both parties will be able to cross over.

    “There will be Democrats in some Republican areas who will cross over en masse and vote for someone with a Republican Party label who is not very reflective of that party in that area,” he said, noting the same thing would happen in Democratic districts. “That will change the nature of the people elected.”

    From Berendt’s perspective, that’s not a good thing. “Having everyone who is exactly the same isn’t a good thing for American politics,” he said.

2 Responses to “Will application of Washington state law keep third party candidates off the ballot?”

  1. Preston Says:

    Actually, this could be good for Third Parties in certain situations. If you had two major party primaries which both had several candidates vying for the spot, and a minor party was united behind one person, it could put them on the ballot in a two way race.

  2. Michael Seebeck Says:

    The ruling is a complete farce. Political Parties have the First Amendment Free Association right to determine their own nominees for the general election per the Tashjian ruling. The WA law allows that right to be suppressed by the people, and SCOTUS agreed with that 7-2?!?

    Sorry, but that’s utter bullshit, and the 7 judges who voted that way are incompetent fools. But I repeat myself…

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