Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee, in a ruling handed down from the bench after brief oral arguments Thursday, rejected a challenge brought by the Libertarian Party of Washington.
The Libertarians had argued that the Republicans of Washington lapsed into minority status by not getting 5 percent of the 2010 statewide vote with a “nominated” candidate for U.S. Senate. The GOP state convention did not take up a nomination vote that year because Dino Rossi and Clint Didier were still locked in a spirited contest for Republican support. Rossi later won the Top 2 Primary, along with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and lost to her that fall. The vote was Murray 52 percent and Rossi 48.
Libertarian attorney J. Mills of Tacoma had sought to keep the Romney-Ryan ticket off the ballot this fall, saying they had failed to hold in-state nominating conventions, along with six other minor parties, this summer. http://tinyurl.com/cwzf34l
Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed, said the statute cited by Mills had been rendered inoperative by the subsequent voter approval of the Top 2 Primary system, which does not “nominate” finalists for the November ballot, but rather winnows the field for each office down to two. In this particular case, the state election code made it clear that the 2008 presidential vote in Washington was what gave the Republican Party majority status, the state said.
McPhee said that argument was persuasive, and that 2008 was the appropriate marker for determining if a party has majority status. In that election, the McCain-Palin ticket got 40.48 percent of the vote, to the Obama-Biden ticket’s 57.65 percent.
Libertarians apparently will not appeal.
The state soon will send the Voters’ Pamphlet to the printer’s and will certify to the counties the names that must appear on their ballots. Six minor party tickets already are certified and the Democratic and Republican tickets are to be added automatically once their nominating conventions are held and proper paperwork is submitted.
Secretary of State Sam Reed hailed today’s ruling, saying the state Elections Division had correctly read elections law, including the changes wrought by the change in primary systems and the whole notion of nominations, which are done by the parties under their own rules. He also noted that the parties’ unsuccessful lawsuits against the voter-approved Top 2 system had resulted in court opinions that explicitly said the laws dealing with the old Pick-a-Party Primary statutes were superseded. In the current controversy, 2008 was the correct benchmark for determining majority party status, he said.
The lawsuit also named the state Republican Party as a defendant, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Romney campaign in Washington. The case number is 12-2-01683-3.