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It’s a wrap: Primary vote certified

Even the closest of races have been over for more than a week, but the process of reaching the final election tallies for the Washington state primary just concluded on Tuesday afternoon.

The final turnout: A lower than forecast 38.5 percent statewide, and 38.85 percent in Spokane County.

For a look at the race-by-race results, click here.

Procrastinators note: 8 p.m. is ballot deadline

When that ballot came in the mail several weeks ago, some of you may have thought: “Oh, plenty of time.”

And when those political commercials started coming hot and heavy during the Olympic games' opening ceremony, you may have looked toward the counter where that ballot sat and thought: “Oh, plenty of time.”

And when the campaigns started calling asking you to mark your ballot for this candidate or the other, you may have hung up the phone thinking: “Oh, plenty of time.”

Well, guess what? You are almost out of time.

8 p.m. today is the deadline for getting those ballots in. They must be deposited in a drop box, or mailed with today's postmark. To make sure it's postmarked, it might be best to take it to a Post Office. For a list of public libraries and other locations for Spokane County drop boxes, check inside the blog.

Oh, and if you forgot where you put the ballot, or threw it out with the junk mail, or maybe the dog ate it, and now you need another one, you can get that at a voter service center. Here's a list of voter service centers for Spokane County.

 

Downtown  Elections Office 1033 W Gardner Ave
Downtown STA Transit Plaza   701 W Riverside Ave
Northside  North Spokane Library   44 E Hawthorne Rd
South Hill  St. Mark’s Church    316 E 24th Ave
Spokane Valley  CenterPlace  2426 N Discovery Pl
West Plains   Cheney Library

610 First St

Time running out for voters

If you haven't voted in the Washington state primary, but have been meaning to, you are running out of time.

The deadline to get those ballots marked, sealed and mailed, or sealed and deposited in a drop box, is 8 p.m. Tuesday.

If you are mailing it in, remember that it's not when you drop it in the mailbox that counts. It's when the U.S. Postal Service post marks it.

So rather than dropping it in a remote maibox on Tuesday afternoon on the way home from work, you might want to stop by the Post Office and have them postmark it. Or save yourself a stamp and put it in a drop box.

In Spokane County, drop boxes can be found at the public libraries, as well as the STA Plaza in downtown Spokane, and county Elections Office at 1033 W. Gardner.

On Tuesday, Spokane County will also have voter service centers at key locations where you can go for help if you lost your ballot, never got a ballot even though you are registered, or spilled coffee on your ballot or did something else to it that could keep the scanner from reading it.

Locations of the voter service centers can be found inside the blog.

Ballots in the mail

Today is the day for county elections offices in Washington to begin mailing out ballots for the Aug. 7 state primary.

Spokane County will start its mail “drop” of about 265,000 ballots, finishing it on Thursday.

All registered voters should receive their ballots by early next week. If you get to the end of next week, and still no ballot, you should contact your county elections office to find out what's going on. In Spokane County, that number is 509-477-2320. For contact information for other Washington counties, click here.

The ballot is fairly long, because some of the races have a long list of candidates who would love to have your vote. Chances are, there's a fair number you've never heard of. For information on candidates for state and local offices, check out The Spokesman-Review's Election Center and the Washington Secretary of State's Online Voter's Guide.

Once you've marked your ballot, you can either mail it in (postmarked by Aug. 7) or save a stamp by depositing it in a Drop Box.

A list of Spokane County Drop Box locations can be found inside the blog.

State primary is officially underway

OLYMPIA — Your election calendar might not say Washington State Primary until Aug. 7, but in reality, the election has already begun.

Some 50,000 ballots have been sent to deployed service members and other state residents living overseas. Some went by regular mail, others went by e-mail, depending on what the voter requested.

All of the state's 39 counties sent out some ballots, the state Elections Division said today. Spokane County sent out 3,722, which was the fifth highest in the state.

Ballots to the rest of the state's voters will be mailed out in mid-July, and have to be dropped off or postmarked by Aug. 7.

And just a friendly reminder: If you are eligible to vote, but aren't registered, you have until July 9 to register online. If you aren't registered, you can start the process by clicking here. If you can't remember if you're registered at your current address, that link will help you find that out, too.

Day 2 Filing Week: As the day starts

OLYMPIA — Filing week continues today for all the political offices on the Aug. 7 Top 2 primary ballot. Unlike Monday, when there was the traditional rush into the elections offices by anxious candidates, Tuesday started slower.

Sen. Mark Schoesler and Rep. Joe Schmick, Republican incumbents in southeast Washington's 9th Legislative District, filed this morning. Overnight, Republican Art Coday filed electronically for U.S. Senate.

Yes, you actually can avoid the trip to the county elections office or Secretary of State's office, save time and gasoline, by filing online. (Click here for details.) You can sell yourself as the sensible, efficient, environmentally friendly, tech savvy candidate. But you miss the chance to turn your filing, which is really just a clerical exercise, into a campaign event.

Speaking of which, former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, will be chatting with reporters on the north steps of the Capitol this morning after filing his forms and paying the fee.

For the latest list of candidates for offices on Spokane-area ballots, click here to go inside the blog.

U.S. Supreme Court asked to overturn state primary

OLYMPIA — The state's Democratic and Libertarian parties are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do what lower courts have refused: Throw out the state's Top Two primary system.

The two parties have asked the nation's top court to hear arguments on the state's primary system, which has all candidates for all offices on a single ballot and lists candidates by the party they say they “prefer”. The two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of party preference.

The Supreme Court would be the last stop in a long battle the parties have waged over the way Washington conducts its primaries. For more than a half-century, Washington operated what was known as a blanket primary, where all candidates for all offices appeared on a single ballot, and voters could select on candidate from any party for each office. When those ballots were tallied, the Democrat and Republican candidate for each office advanced to the general election, as did minor party candidates and independents who crossed a threshhold for a minimum number of votes.

Washington voters don't register by party, and the major parties argued that meant people who weren't their members were choosing their nominees. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar law in California for violating constitutional protections of freedom of association, and the Washington parties won a court challenge to their state's law in 2003. Voters approved an initiative for the Top 2 primary, which was also challenged in court, and while the court case was pending, primaries in which voters had to choose a Democratic or Republican ballot or nonpartisan ballot if there were nonpartisan races or measures in the same election.

Eventually the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 the Top 2 primary was, on its face, constitutional. But it left open the possibility that it could be administered in a way that was unconstitutional. The parties challenged the way the primary ballot identifies a candidate's party preference, arguing they don't have an adequate way of objecting to a candidate who claims to be associated with them, and that voters might be confused that listing of party preference indicates the candidate is a member of the party.

That challenge failed with a U.S. District Court judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ballot contains a disclaimer that a candidate's preference does not necessarily have the support of that party, and the appeals court said that was enough. The parties are saying, however, there wasn't any evidence in front of the appeals court to show “that voters read or understand the disclaimer or that doing so would affect voter perceptions of the candidate-party association.”

Secretary of State Sam Reed defended the Top 2 primary as a way for state residents to vote for the person, not the party label. “I hope the Supreme Court will decline to take the case, and will acknowledge that we followed to court's roadmap for how to conduct the primary as a nonpartisan, winnow election that puts the voter in the driver's seat.”

The state Republican Party had been involved in the previous court cases, but is not part of the latest effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, which is a request for a writ of certiorari.


Documents:

9th Circuit: WA primary system OK

OLYMPIA — Washington state'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 today.

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.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Primary turnout tops 40 percent

OLYMPIA — Washington voters turned out in impressive numbers — impressive for a primary, anyway — in last week’s election.

With a few thousand ballots still to count, turnout stands at 40.46 percent, which state elections officials say is better than expected for an even but non presidential year primary. They’d been predicting 38 percent, but aren’t unhappy about being wrong on the low side.

Two years ago, with a bunch of statewide offices on the primary ballot and the excitement of a presidential race in the air (albeit not on the primary ballot), primary turnout hit 42.6 percent. That was the state’s first foray into the Top Two primary system; the primary in 2006, which like this year featured a U.S. Senate race, was 38.8. The 2002 primary, which had no Senate race, was 34.4 percent.

Something else happened in that interim: All the counties except Pierce County gradually went to all mail balloting.

So it would seem that  having a big statewide contest like a U.S. Senate race is good for an extra 2% or so in generating turnout, and mail balloting may be good for another 2%.

But the overall turnout suggests that the national pundits talk about disaffected voters may be as valid as their talk about anti-establishment trends, at least in Washington. If anything, ballots came in a little stronger than normal, and in the Senate race, more pro-establishment than anti-establishment, considering Republican Dino Rossi handily defeated insurgent Clint Didier, and Democrat Patty Murray pulled down 46 percent of the vote.

Looking forward to the general election, there may be one worrisome statistic for Rossi: He won three of the four counties with the highest turnout rates, but they’re fairly small counties as far as population and votes don’t have much room to grow in the general. Three of the four counties with the lowest turnout are where Murray did better, and they have the state’s highest population. One of them is King County, where she got twice as many votes, and only 37 percent of the voters cast ballots in the primary. 

Playing the lower expectations game

Democrats in the other Washington are already trying to lower expectations for the kind of votes  incumbent Sen. Patty Murray will pull down on Tuesday, and raise expectations for Republican Dino Rossi.

A press release from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are contending that Rossi should outpoll Murray in the primary, but not to worry, she’ll win in November. Rossi got 46.35 percent of the primary vote in 2008 when he ran the second time for governor and “we expect him to earn at least that much in tomorrow’s primary,” the campaign committee’s exec director JB Poersch said earlier today. That plus Murray only got 45.9 percent in the 1998 primary, but went on to win the general by 16 percentage points.

This is an interesting example of using selective data to bolster a really bad argument by people who clearly don’t know very much about Washington primaries.

We explain, inside the blog