A federal judge, in an amusing ruling Tuesday that took note that “many trees have died” in the ongoing court battle over Washington’s Top 2 primary system, has refused to toss the system, but is allowing the political parties to continue their quest for some fine-tuning.
The parties have hated the Top 2 system ever since voters approved it in 2004 and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2008. Top 2 allows voters’ two favorite candidates for each office to advance to the November General Election. It’s no longer a nominating system that sends each party’s winner forward. It’s a winnowing election. Parties don’t like that, particularly since they aren’t guaranteed a runoff spot, because unaffiliated voters are welcome to take part in the primary, and because candidates declare their own party preference when they file for office.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, the Elections Division and Attorney General Rob McKenna successfully defended the voter-approved system, winning a 7-2 decision in the nation’s highest court. Top 2 was first used in 2008, and independent polling showed that voters greatly preferred it to the Pick-a-Party Primary that restricted voters to one party’s list of candidates.
Despite efforts to get the parties to halt the years of expensive litigation and accede to the voters’ wishes, they persist. The battle now is back in the original court, U.S. District Court, where a full hearing is scheduled in October. Today, Judge John Coughenour (pronounced Coo’-nauer) basically kept the case alive.
He swept aside what he called the parties’ “half-dead” request that the Top 2 be tossed on a whole bunch of constitutional grounds. He good-naturedly chided the political parties for being “out-of-step” with his earlier admonition not to beat a dead horse by bringing up issues the Supreme Court has so clearly ruled upon. He also tweaked the state’s attorneys for pointing out the deficiencies of the parties’ motions, and helpfully added “There is no rule of pleading that requires every single alleged fact to be strictly relevant,” and said “The court simply will not take this opportunity to require any party to plead more artfully ….”
The judge yet again pointed out that last August, he “specifically drew the parties’ attention to the fact that their requested relief was no longer available” and that they should ask for something in the realm of the possible.
In case you have a sleepless night, all of the paperwork is being posted on the Top 2 litigation site – scroll WAY down to find the 2010 stuff…