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In brief: Party preference option, top-two primary upheld

OLYMPIA – Washington’s current primary system, which has candidates stating their party preference rather than a party affiliation and sends the top two vote-getters to the general election, is constitutional, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by Washington’s Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties that the system infringes on their First Amendment rights of association. There’s no proof that voters are confused by it, the court ruled.

The top-two primary allows voters to get a ballot with all the candidates’ names, and the candidates who get the most and second-most votes move on to the general election.

That sometimes results in two candidates who list the same party preference appearing on the general election ballot. The ruling means the state’s 2012 primary will likely occur as scheduled in early August.

Lawmaker proposes revamping Idaho primaries

BOISE – Idaho’s primary election would be pushed back to Aug. 7 from May 15 under legislation introduced Thursday.

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, said his bill would shorten Idaho’s political season by scheduling the primary election closer to the November election. Other lawmakers disputed that, saying primary contests would stretch longer.

Loertscher also noted that the change would help the state cope with the time crunch created by this week’s Idaho Supreme Court decision tossing out the state’s legislative redistricting plan; candidate filing for the primary is now scheduled to start Feb. 27.

“The timing of this draft legislation is impeccable,” said Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls.

The bill, which also would eliminate Idaho’s presidential primary – both parties in Idaho now hold caucuses to select presidential delegates – will be scheduled for a public hearing in the committee.

Man accused of beating, scalding wife with cooking oil

A Spokane man accused of beating and burning his wife is facing an assault charge.

Ronald M. Pritchett, 45, was taken into custody Wednesday night after officers interviewed his wife at a Spokane hospital, where she was treated for burn injuries from scalding cooking oil, according to the Spokane Police Department. The woman reportedly had two black eyes and bruises all over her body as well.

According to police, the couple began arguing while making dinner Tuesday night, and Pritchett allegedly threw a pot of hot oil on her, burning her face, back and the right side of her body. He then prevented her from seeking medical attention. The next day, after Pritchett left the house, the woman called authorities asking for help and was rushed to the hospital.

Pritchett was being held at the Spokane County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond following a preliminary court appearance Thursday. Police are recommending charges of second-degree assault.

Police say ‘numerous people’ reported threats at park

Two men were arrested Wednesday after threatening people with guns at Underhill Park and then fleeing from police, according to the Spokane Police Department.

Joel D. Nelson, 26, and Joshua L. Schmidt, 29, were in a silver Chevrolet Impala in the park’s parking lot and were reported by “numerous people” to the police for threatening them with guns, according to a news release.

Police arrived and tried to stop the car as it left the parking lot but it sped away, the release said. After a pursuit, the car pulled over and the two men fled on foot. Officers caught Nelson, the driver, but Schmidt escaped.

A K-9 officer and his dog tracked Schmidt to the backyard of a house a block away, the release said.

Both men were taken into custody without incident and booked into Spokane County Jail. Nelson was arrested on eight counts of first-degree assault, one count of attempt to elude and one count of DUI. Schmidt was arrested on the same assault counts, plus one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.