Thursday, July 21, 2005

Should the Party control its nominee?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Washington state will continue to use a primary system that forces voters to choose one party’s primary ballot while it appeals a federal court decision declaring unconstitutional its preferred system, approved with 60 percent of the vote last fall, which permitted primary voters to vote for a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another, with the top vote-getters in each contest proceeding to the general election. Under the system being implemented voters will not have to be a registered party member to choose that party’s ballot.

Last week, US District Judge Thomas Zilly ruled that the Washington “top two” primary system was unconstitutional, violating the political parties’ rights by “(a) allowing any voter, regardless of their affiliation to a party, to choose a party's nominee, and (b) allowing any candidate, regardless of party affiliation or relationship to a party, to self-identify as a member of a political party and to appear on the primary and general election ballots as a candidate for that party.”

TYL has previously called for electoral reform, placing open primaries atop our list of goals for the Centrist Reform Movement. We believe that every American should be allowed to vote for the individual s/he believes best represents him/her regardless of party affiliation or electoral race.

The Washington plan was approved by 60 percent of the state’s electorate and should be allowed to be implemented.


At 12:47 PM, Blogger Richard Shepard said...

Judge Zilly made the right ruling.

Dissatisfaction with the Democrats and Republicans does not necessarily result in independent or centrist policy status. Everybody has to stand for something, and people of like belief (left, right, up, down, center) all have the right to select their own spokesperson.

An equally viable response to the "duopoly" is a vibrant multiparty system, which the majority of other civilized countries in the world employ.

As can be surmised by the dispute in Washington over election systems, the system itself has normative content. But if the First Amendment is going to mean anything it needs to encourage rather than suppress divergence of political ideas.

Political scientist Maurice Duverger posited in the 1950s that, as a general rule, winner-take-all systems favor two dominent political parties and third parties are, at best, spoilers. While there are exceptions around the world, the proposition is now referred to as a "law" in the United States.

Rather than undermining the first amendment rights of all political parties, which is what a top two system does, the preferred solution is proportional representation.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

Richard may be right that such a multiparty system would be better. It would certainly be better than the strong two-party system we have now. However, I think it is incorrect to say Washington State has violated the constitution, at least without having read the text of the law or the decision.

It is certainly a curb on the power of the parties. But it says, in effect, everyone gets to decide who the nominee is for each party. People actually get to vote more, not less, if they are so inclined, and that right is reserved for everyone. It's unclear to me how that could possibly be against the constitution.

Imagine I start a political party in Washington ... call it the Tall People party. We believe that our leaders should be tall, although we may disagree on how tall is tall enough or what constitutes too tall. The thing is, we can't keep anyone - regardless of height - out of our party. So there may very well be a lot of midgets in the Tall People party.

So you already don't have to be tall to vote Tall. All they're saying is, you also don't have to declare yourself a Tall Person to vote on the Tall Person candidate. Subsequently, all the Tall People also get to vote for the best Midget candidate. And all the Tallers and Midgets can, if they want, vote for their favorite Fat Party person. They don't have to be fat to do so and they don't have to declare themselves Fat.

And best of all, those who chose not to declare themselves Tall, Midget, or Fat - the independents - get to vote for the best in each party, just like everyone else.


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