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Voters dislike new primary

Voters in last week’s Montana-style primary found it easy to cast their votes, but a large majority of them were not happy about the new system.

Washington’s Secretary of State’s office surveyed voters exiting polling places after they voted in the Sept. 14 primary. In the survey of 704 voters, 79 percent said they oppose the new primary system.

At Island County’s polling places, the dissension was less obvious, but the confusion wasn’t.

“I think there have been unhappy people because it’s a new thing,” said Ann McDonald, spokeswoman for the Island County Democratic Central Committee. “The newness made it confusing.”

According to the survey, only 24 percent of those asked said they found voting in the new system somewhat or very confusing. Ignorance did not seem to be the cause of the frustration, however. Ninety-eight percent of those surveyed said they were aware of the new system.

“I personally received no complaints,” said Andy Valrosa, chairman of the Island County Republican Party.

Valrosa said people were initially unhappy about the change, which came after a Supreme Court decision that declared the blanket primary Washington had used for more than 70 years unconstitutional. But after he explained the intent further, people were generally receptive.

“The intent of a primary is purely to decide who a party’s candidate is for the election,” Valrosa said. “A Boy Scout should not be choosing who the Girl Scouts’ leader is.” However, that’s the way Washington’s voters cast their “blanket primary” ballots for decades before the method was thrown out by the court.

According to the survey, people stayed unhappy about the change. Fifty-eight percent of the voters surveyed had a negative or very negative reaction toward the single-party ballot. Twenty-one percent of those surveyed had a positive or very positive reaction to the new primary.

In the aftermath of the debut of Washington’s new primary system, local Democratic and Republican leaders said they are pleased with the results that have emerged.

“The Democrats in Island County are united and determined to put Democrats in office,” McDonald said.

As of Monday afternoon, the Island County Auditor’s office had tabulated 10,689 Democratic ballots. The office had tabulated 8,603 Republican ballots. Statewide, 710,140 Democratic ballots have been tabulated, compared to 490,122 Republican ballots.

Valrosa said the larger Democratic turnout is due to the hotly contested gubernatorial and U.S. senate races.

“The Republicans did not have a whole lot of contested races,” he said. “I don’t think that implies there’s that many more Democrats in the county than Republicans. The Democrats had a larger turnout because they had more contested races.” Locally, the Democrats had a contested county commissioner race and a contested 10th District Representative race.

“I think Democrats are clear in the fact that we need to change at all levels,” McDonald said.

Although the Republican turnout paled compared to the Democratic, Valrosa said he still stands by the new system.

“I am a proponent of the new type of primary because the parties have the right to decide who their candidates are going to be,” he said.

That primary could change again in November if voters approve Initiative 872, sponsored by the Washington State Grange, which will again give voters the choice of any name on the ballot. The top two finishers, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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