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Originally published January 20, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Page modified January 20, 2012 at 5:01 PM

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Courts once again slap down party efforts to kill Washington's top-two primary

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against three Washington political parties in their efforts to overturn the state's top-two primary. The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties deserved to lose and now they should stop trying to take away the primary enacted by voters.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Washington's primary-election ballots do not violate the political parties' rights. The parties can appeal this ruling, but it is pointless. They have lost, and they deserved to lose.

In 2004, the voters of Washington approved the top-two primary by passing Initiative 872. The parties sued over the new law, took it to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. Then the parties sued over the specific way the state designed the ballots. That is this case, Washington State Republican Party v. Washington State Grange.

Voters will recall ballots that say a candidate "prefers Democratic Party," "prefers Republican Party," and so on. The "prefers" is there to show this is a label a candidate puts on himself, not a label the party puts on him.

The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties argue that voters are too blockheaded to understand this.

The Democrats argue, for example, that in several races for the Legislature, candidates endorsed by Democratic groups lost to "prefer Democratic Party" candidates who were not endorsed. That is so, but as the court said, it proves nothing about voter confusion. It might just as well be evidence of voter wisdom.

The Libertarians argued that the new system relegated its candidates to the August primary and made them invisible in November. The court said the ballots give minor parties "the same opportunity as major-party candidates to advance to the general election." If their candidates didn't advance, it was because people didn't vote for them — which was their problem.

Remember what all this is about: the parties' desire to have voters officially tied to them, so that they can limit voter choice in the August primary to one party.

In more than 120 years, Washington had a system like that for only a brief time, and the people didn't want it. They still don't want it, and they are not going to have it.

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