Secretary of State Sam Reed, a longtime advocate for Washington’s Presidential Primary, is joining Gov. Chris Gregoire in asking the Legislature to suspend the primary in 2012. The move would save $10 million.
The regular Top 2 Primary would still be held in August for governor, U.S. Senate, and other statewide and local races. But the state would rely on the old precinct caucus-convention system, which Iowa and a handful of other states still use, for allocating national nominating convention delegates.
Washington has had a Presidential Primary since 1989, and was created by an initiative to the Legislature. It has been cancelled only once before, in 2004, another time when there was a budget shortfall and with the incumbent president apparently facing no serious challenge for re-nomination.
Here was Secretary Reed’s statement:
“I join Governor Gregoire in reluctantly asking the Legislature to suspend the 2012 Presidential Primary in Washington. Ever since the Legislature approved the presidential primary in 1989 as a people’s initiative to the Legislature, the primary has been a very popular way to engage average citizens, not just party activists, in the process of helping nominate candidates for President of the United States.
“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. 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.
“Whereas caucuses require a voter to seek out the local gathering place and attend on a particular day, regardless of work schedule, handicap or other conflict, the presidential primary allows us to vote by mail over a period of several weeks.
“But at the same time, we acknowledge that Washington faces a grave budget shortfall and that many important public services must be suspended or eliminated. Suspending this election will save taxpayers more than $10 million. 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. I look forward to Washington resuming the presidential primary in 2016.”