EDITORIAL: Auditor needs the money

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair has perhaps the least enviable position in the county as we enter a new election season: She’s the one responsible for explaining the new primary system to voters.

The county commissioners gave her some help last week by accepting $71,000 from the state to help with the transition to the new “Montana-style” primary system. This replaces the “blanket primary,” which our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Supreme Court justices deemed unconstitutional some 70 years after we started using it in this state.

Sinclair and her staff will have to educate Washington voters that, no, you can’t pick whomever you want to vote for in the primary ballot anymore. You’ll have to pick just Democrats, or just Republicans, or just Libertarians, or just the ballot measures and the non-partisan offices. Apparently, Sinclair has already opted to use the “consolidated” ballot, in which all options appear on one ballot. This will save the cost of printing separate ballots, but seems destined to only add to the confusion.

The change may be easy to understand, and readily accepted, by the thousands of Washingtonians who came of age in other states before moving here. Most states have always used something like the Montana-style, closed primary system. But for those who have always lived in Washington, the new primary will be an enormous, unwelcome change. Any native born Washingtonian under the age of 91 years (70 years of the blanket primary plus the legal voting age of 21 back then) has no experience with anything but the blanket primary. Good luck getting them to change their ways.

Sinclair has until Sept. 14 to educate the voters, and an extra $71,000 to help get the job done. Her efforts will no doubt be worthy, but chances are the Sept. 14 primary in Washington will make the 2000 presidential election in Florida look like it wasn’t confusing at all, by comparison.

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