Primary day today, which in my case involved driving to the local polling place, discovering that it had been moved to another school, going to that other school, finding it to be at the exact moment everyone is dropping their kids off, finding the room, and discovering that, despite the fact that the polls had been open for a half-hour, I was the first voter in the five voting precincts to find the place and vote. That was followed by a miserable commute that involved being held up in traffic because of a street sweeper, a motorcycle cop, a heavy rainstorm, and a goat. But that's not what I want to whine about today.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has handed down a foolish ruling.
No, not the one involving pushing the Recall vote back (though I am queasy about this one - I'd rather be trusting old busted-down technology for that vote as opposed to the new technological hotness). They have ruled Washington's open primaries to be unconstitutional.
Here's how it has worked for 67 years in the state of Washington. You go to the polling place. You get a ballot. You vote. That's it. No party declaration needed. This morning, I could have voted for Heavey, Fortunato, Roach, or Hammond, regardless of my personal allegiance. And though tempted to make mischief (choose the weakest Republican to face Heavey), I would rather see two competant candidates going against each other.
It works. And the local political parties (Republican, Democrat, and even the Libertarians) HATE it. Because, of course, there is the chance of mischief, but more importantly, because it keeps the core voters (Right, Left, or Just Out There, depending on the party) from dominating the process. I mean, how do you propose to run a democracy if you just let ANYONE vote?
The weirdness is that they have challenged this blanket primary of the grounds of the right of free association. Not the individual voters, but the right of free association of the political parties. Its an interesting idea, effectively saying that they can restrict the procedure only to a few of their choice.
So now the state (whether it wins a Supreme Court Appeal or not) is going to have to spend time and money putting together an alternative to the blanket primary in time for 2004 (when, in a reverse of the 9th district, we're going to see a bunch of Democrats versus a single Republican) in order to make the parties happy. Its pretty sucky, and goes against one of the interesting parts of Washington's political climate, forcing the voters into little pens where they can be more easily handled.
Such is the nature of political progress these days.