Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top-two primary system

Confidence and persistence proved responsible for the eventual adoption of Top-two primary

Secretary of State, Sam Reed, smiled to a crowd of donut-nibbling college students as he began his account of the Initiative he’s overseen since day one, nearly a decade ago. 

The Foley Institute hosted Reed, a WSU alumnae, as a part of their Coffee and Politics series Sept. 22. He spoke about the trials he went through in order to see the initiative through and where this plan is going for the future.

The top-two primary voting system allows the public to vote for whom ever they choose without affiliating with a political party. The two candidates who win the primary regardless of their party affiliation qualify for the general election according to the secretary of state’s website.

“I do believe top-two primary fits the political culture in Washington,” Reed said.

Washington State has a long history of people thinking they have the right to control how they vote, he said. But just two hours after he was sworn in as the 14th Secretary of State on Jan. 10 2001, he found himself slapped with a lawsuit by the Democratic Party.

This initiative removes some of the freedom from the parties to essentially hand pick those seen on the ballot.  

“For the first time, candidates have to show up, and take a stand,” Reed said. “Anyone can run, anyone can win, and you don’t have to be blessed by a political party.”  

Candidates who run in a predominately Republican or Democratic area now have to make more of an effort to campaign where they may have ran unopposed or against those in the same party in the past.

Jeremy Bradbury, a Junior Mechanical Engineering major, agreed with Reed, hoping that maybe this could motivate younger people to get involved in voting.

“If you make people choose a party, they are just going to vote along party lines, without knowing what or who they are voting for most of the time,” Bradbury said.

In 2004 the initiative was passed by the people by almost 60 percent according to the secretary of state’s website. But in 2005, before the law was put into action, the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian Parties sued, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

In March 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the law and the new primary was used in the 2008 primary and general races.

Two years later, on Jan. 22, 2010, the Democrat and Republican Parties of Washington State filed additional complaints based on empirical observations of confusion based on the 2008 election.

Sophomore Jake Curnutt, a Business management and operations major hopes the top-two primary system will continue.

“You shouldn’t have to declare your own party, there are things I disagree and agree with from each side,” Jake said. “It’s not effective to have to choose.”

Reed has dealt with many people in his party and the opposing that were angered and disapproving of his choice to stand behind the top-two system. In 2004, he received 16,000 emails in 24 hours, a lot involving obscenities.

“Once you cross that threshold you’re there to act for people, not a partisan,” Reed said.

Recently the top-two primary system was passed in California. However, Oregon overwhelmingly rejected the idea in 2008. Since then, their secretary of state seems similar to Reed as a strong advocate, in hopes to pass this initiative in the future.


I. What brought Sam Reed to Pullman
         -Alum to wsu
-Spreading the word
-Reiterating his confidence in the program.
II. History/definition of initiative
         - Lawsuits
         -new lawsuit
            - What it means to use this primary voting system
III. What it means for the future
-       California/Oregon
-       Effect it has had on Reed

1. Do you think this will motivate young people to vote and get involved in the vote now that they have the choice?
2. What was the most difficult moment when seeing this initiative through for the past 10 years?
3. Do you think this will eventually be a nation-wide primary voting system?

Sam Reed
Jake Curnutt – 425-314-8888
Jeremy Bradbury- 253-951-1414

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