August 7, 2008 in City

Washington officials unveil MyVote Web site

Voters can check registration, read up on contenders
By The Spokesman-Review
 

On the Web

A link to the MyVote site can be found at www.secstate.wa. gov/elections.

With ballots for Washington’s top-two primary streaming in to county elections offices, state officials are unveiling a Web site to help voters with their ballots and registration.

The new site, dubbed MyVote, allows voters to check their registered address and correct it if it’s wrong. They can also see which candidates are on their ballots and go to the state’s Voter Guide to see those candidates’ entries. The site lists places where voters can drop off ballots if they don’t want to put them in the mail.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said voters seem to prefer the new voting system, in which they can vote for any candidate in each race, to the “pick a party” primary in 2004 and 2006. In those years, voters could cast a ballot that had only one of the major party’s candidates on it.

Under the previous system, “I was getting an e-mail on the average of every two seconds, and they were not kind e-mails,” Reed said at a press conference Wednesday in Spokane. Voters didn’t like being restricted to a single party, he said.

The top-two primary closely resembles the system called a blanket primary, in place between 1935 and 2003, when it was ruled unconstitutional by federal courts. The two candidates getting the most votes will move to the general election, regardless of their stated party preference. That means it’s possible for the general election race to be between two Democrats or two Republicans, one major party candidate and one minor party candidate, or two minor party candidates.

The biggest change is for minor party candidates, Reed said. But it’s a good-news, bad-news kind of change.

“The good news for them, it’s the easiest and best access to the ballot of any state in America,” Reed said. All they needed to do was file a candidacy petition and state a party preference.

The bad news: It will be difficult for minor party candidates to finish first or second in the primary and advance to the general election in most races, he said.

“There’s always a possibility of a Green Party candidate making it in Seattle, or a Libertarian candidate over here in Eastern Washington,” Reed said.

Under previous systems, minor party candidates bypassed the primary and went directly to the general election if they filed enough signatures. “There are no free passes anymore,” he said.

Reed predicted a statewide turnout of 46 percent, which would be higher than 2004 or 2006. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said her office has received nearly 19,000 ballots, just under 8 percent of the nearly 244,000 mailed out last week.

Jim Camden can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or by e-mail at jimc@spokesman.com.


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