Sunday, November 01, 2009

A non-partison election fable

Once upon a time, Washington State had a blanket primary where voters could vote for anyone they wanted to in any party and the candidates receiving the most votes in each major party advanced to the general election.

The major parties challenged the system because they didn't want non-members choosing their candidates for them. Apparently, they were under some delusion that no logical person could ever honestly support a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another office.

The result: after lots of legal wrangling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court not once but twice, the parties won and lost. They succeeded in eliminating the blanket primary and voters replaced it with a "top two" primary, where the two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election. Of course, the two big parties are still upset about this because there's no guarantee that a candidate from each party will advance. Parties can, of course, be involved in recruiting candidates and endorsing and supporting them but not choosing who gets on the ballot.

Now here's where it gets silly: in retaliation for the parties still fighting the top two primary, voters in King County went one step further, making all elections "non-partisan." The truth is that elections are inherently political, and pretending that political parties are irrelevant is a sham. It's unreasonable to think that all candidates fit neatly into one of two boxes and all this does is keep the voters in the dark. In fact, the Seattle Times reports that in next week's race for King County Executive, the campaign contributions between the two candidates are divided overwhelmingly on party lines.

While writing this post, I stumbled across More Party Animals, "a lighthearted kick-start toward change in this country," founded by two guys who think we should have more diversity in our political spectrum. See the illustration above. Of course, in King County, the animals would all need disguises so no one would be able to identify them on the ballot.

UPDATE: Read Joni Balter's post-election column on partisanship in the King County Executive race.

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