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Effort Revived To Move Up Presidential Primary

A plan to advance the date of Washington’s presidential primary to March, instead of May, was revived in the House on Monday.

Republican Secretary of State Ralph Munro, with the backing of Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry, has been urging lawmakers to move the primary forward so Washington isn’t an afterthought in the national hunt for convention delegates.

As created by a legislatively approved citizen initiative, Washington’s new primary is one of the latest in the nation, the fourth Tuesday in May, well beyond the time major party nominations are still up for grabs. Munro said moving to the first Tuesday in March, three weeks before California’s, would attract visits from White House hopefuls as part of a West Coast swing.

“So many states are moving their primaries forward that the whole system has become very frontloaded” and Washington will be left behind if it doesn’t change with the times, Munro said in an interview.

Munro also wanted to let independents vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries without having to declare a party affiliation.

The Democratic Senate passed his bill earlier this session, but the GOPcontrolled House allowed it to die after key Republican Party officials balked.

But Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, said Monday both parties appear to be ready to support a new compromise plan that includes safeguards for the parties. Passage could come Tuesday.

Here’s how the new setup would work:

Munro would have until Aug. 1 to announce the date for next year’s presidential primary. If either party wanted a different date, a newly formed appeals committee would make the final decision. The panel would include Munro, the chairman and vice chairman of both parties and an appointee by each of the four legislative caucuses.

A voter could ask for a Democratic ballot listing only the Democratic presidential hopefuls, a Republicanonly ballot, or an independent ballot listing all candidates.

The parties could use the returns however they wished, including the option of counting the ballots cast by independents.

The primary could be used as a non-binding “beauty contest” if the party so decided. The Democrats currently have a national party rule that non-Democrats cannot take part in delegation selection, since the party sees that as a internal party process.

The Democrats have continued using the old system of precinct caucuses by declared Democrats and subsequent county, legislative district, congressional district and state conventions to pick the national convention delegation.

In 1992, the Republicans used the primary results to set the proportions for the state’s delegation.

“Republicans want a level playing field” when it comes to the question of whether the primary results are binding, Schmidt said.

He said timing of the primary is important to some candidates. For instance, backers of Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, would want an early primary because the senator is the best known, whereas backers of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, California Gov. Pete Wilson or others would benefit by a later date so they would have more time to get better known, he said.The parties need to pay more attention to the views of independents, she said.



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