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Sun., June 10, 2012, midnight

Presidential primary unnecessary

This commentary from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review editorial board.

Picking political parties’ presidential nominees – whether it’s the Republicans or Democrats – might seem like a public process, but it is not.

The fact is that national and state party leaders, as well as party members, make the rules that determine how the delegates to the national nominating convention are selected.

The only true public connection to the process is that state presidential primaries are run by the state government. But even then voters don’t necessarily have a direct say, as the balloting is sometimes just advisory and sometimes it counts for only a small portion toward allocating delegates.

The Washington Legislature, at the urging of the secretary of state, decided to cancel this year’s presidential primary because of the state’s financial crisis. Canceling the primary saved taxpayers $10 million.

State officials say they hope to bring the primary back in 2016 if the state is on better financial footing. Why? It’s unnecessary.

The parties are doing just fine picking their delegates.

Republicans just finished their state convention and have essentially sorted out Washington’s delegation to the GOP national convention.

Mitt Romney has clinched a majority of Washington’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. Ron Paul supporters, however, were able to secure five delegates to the Tampa, Fla., convention.

“It went exceedingly smoothly,” state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur said. “There’s no blood on the floor. I’m very pleased.”

It’s clear Republicans (and Democrats) can figure this out on their own. The parties don’t need the state’s taxpayers to pay for their primary election.

In 2008 the presidential primary results did not count toward allocating the Democrats’ delegates. It was a straw poll.

In that year Republicans allocated 51 percent of their delegates to the national convention on the primary vote and the remainder based on the party caucuses.

But the only people who could vote in the primary are those who agreed to sign an oath (that becomes public record) declaring they are a Republican or Democrat.

We find the notion of signing an oath repugnant. It’s reason enough to cancel the primary.

But when the millions of dollars saved is considered, it’s clear the state’s presidential primary should not return in 2016.

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