Washington State has a long history of popular antagonism to political parties. For years, the state enforced an open primary, which meant that Republicans could vote in Democratic primaries and Democrats in Republican primaries. This was very popular, because it led to widespread strategic voting.
Well, that’s a euphemism. In open primaries, what you get is not mere strategic voting so much as sabotage. I have heard of Democrats and others boasting of voting in Republican primaries, for example, supporting Pat Robertson. Why? They believed Robertson to be unelectable, and hoped putting Robertson ahead would undercut the GOP in independent voters’ eyes, and make running against the party easier in the general election.
Well, a few years ago that system was thrown out as unconstitutional, as an abridgment of free association rights.
But instead of allowing party members to select candidates, Washington State movers and shakers cooked up something else altogether. They set up a system wherein anyone could use a party’s label — even if that party’s members don’t know said candidate or despise him. Robbing parties of any control over candidates offered in their name is far worse on the very constitutional issue that nullified Washington’s traditional open primaries. Though Top Two has been legally challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court just this week refused to hear arguments.
The name “Top Two” comes from the fact that only the top two vote-getters in this super-open primary are on the general election ballot. The new system has completely removed minor party candidates from the general election ballot, when most folks vote.
Top Two has had the same impact in California. Arizona voters will decide the issue this November, on their ballot as Prop 121.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.