Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians share a gripe about Washington’s top two primary: The system lets a candidate claim the party label even if the party itself has endorsed his opponent.
In constitutional terms, this is “forced association.” It’s a no-no. Big time.
Does Washington’s primary do this?
The law tries to evade the problem by not letting a candidate simply put “Republican” or “Democrat” behind his name on the ballot. Instead, he or she “prefers Republican Party” or “prefers Democratic Party.”
In the latest challenge to the law, the Democratic Party cites evidence that the “prefers” business doesn’t clarify anything.
Washington ballots carry a disclaimer informing voters that a candidate preferring a party isn’t the same thing as a party preferring a candidate. If everybody got this, there’d be no constitutional problem.
But there’s no reason to assume every voter does get it. If every voter were that educated, you wouldn’t get people like Dale Washam or Michael Hecht elected to important positions.
The Democrats’ new petition to the Supreme Court recounts experiments by Mathew Manweller, a political scientist at Central Washington University.
Testing active voters’ reaction to ballot replicas – complete with disclaimers – Manweller found that 35 percent of them perceived that the candidates who “preferred” a party were actual nominees of the party.
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