The Washington Senate has given strong approval to a plan by Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, and Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, to suspend the 2012 presidential primary in order to save over $10 million.
The Senate voted 34-15 to approve a one-time suspension of the presidential primary. A number of senators on both sides of the issue said they vastly favor the primary over the old caucus system that draws many fewer participants and excludes overseas voters, including the military, and house-bound people or those who are working during caucus time.
Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, the prime sponsor, called it “a difficult decision we have to make during a difficult economic climate.” He said if he had his druthers, the primary would be the way Washington picks national convention delegates. But he said there are higher priority needs for the money. Other senators, including Joe Fain and Pam Roach, said the election is a core function of government and that the price tag is worth it.
The measure was brought forward reluctantly by two other backers of the primary, Gregoire and Reed. The Secretary noted that the primary was created by a citizen initiative to the Legislature in 1989 and draws more than 10 times the turnout of the caucuses — 1.4 million versus less than 100,000 in 2008, for instance.
Reed hailed the Senate vote, and noted that the House election panel approved a similar bill earlier in the day and that lawmakers are expected to send legislation to the governor as part of the budget-cutting package of bills.