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December 15, 2010 at 1:28 PM

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Gregoire proposes dumping the 2012 presidential primary

Posted by Richard Wagoner

Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed two-year budget released Wednesday contains a wide swath of deep budget cuts, including one that fans of elections won't care for: dumping the 2012 presidential primary.

Dropping the presidential primary would save $10 million, according to Gregoire's office.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he's reluctantly asking that the primary be suspended. "Ordinarily, I would be the last to propose suspending an election, but these are not ordinary times and we all are looking for ways to tighten our belts and live within our means," he said in a statement.

The state faces a $4.6 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget, and lawmakers are searching for ways to slash costs.

The Legislature approved holding presidential primaries 1989 as a people's initiative to the Legislature. Lawmakers would have to vote to suspend the primary.

The political parties haven't exactly embraced the presidential primary in Washington state.

In 2008, the Democratic Party ignored the primary and instead used precinct caucuses to allocate most of its delegates to the national convention. The Republican Party used the primary to allocate about half its delegates, with the rest coming from the precinct caucuses.

The vote in February of that year drew almost no attention from presidential candidates.

Reed, though, has remained a huge fan of the election.

"Both the governor and I appreciate the party precinct caucuses as an opportunity for activists to gather for in-depth discussion of issues and potential party platform planks, and to begin the process of electing national convention delegates," Reed wrote.

"But it is clear that the primary system, as adopted by a large majority of the states, is an accessible and convenient system that attracts far more voters than our caucuses do, even in a landmark election year like 2008. That year, the primary drew nearly 1.4 million Washingtonians - about 690,000 voting for a Democrat and 530,000 for a Republican - and our caucuses a fraction of that.

Reed said he looks forward to the presidential primary returning in 2016.

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