OLYMPIA -- One casualties of the state's revenue gap in today's budget proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire would be Washington's 2012 presidential preference primary.
The state estimates it would save about $10 million by scrapping the primary, which was mandated by voters in a 1989 initiative but has met with limited acceptance from the state's two major political parties.
Democrats essentially ignore the results of the primary, choosing all of convention delegates through the precinct caucus through state convention system. Republicans have used varying formulas to award at least part of their delegates from the results of the primary and the rest from the caucuses. In 2008, the split was about half and half.
Along with saving money for a statewide mail-in ballot, it would also save the quadrennial jockeying to get a primary date that's close enough to the beginning of the process that there's still some doubt about the parties' nominees, but not so close that Washington is clumped in with a bunch of states and dwarfed by them.
Washington is also the only state that has both a primary and caucuses and two different systems by the parties for apportioning presidential delegates.
State GOP Chairman Luke Esser, while giving Gregoire some credit for an overall budget that "is a step in the right direction toward fiscally responsible government," was critical of cutting the primary, saying it contradicts the will of the people expressed in the initiative.
"And it disenfranchises military voters serving overseas and many other voters. The voice of the brave members of the armed forces fighting for freedom in faraway lands will be silenced because they can't attend a preinct caucuses, as will the voices of those who must work during the caucus, who are home-ridden or tending sick children," Esser said.
Probably an easy call for Gregoire, he added, because Democrats have always ignored the primary results.
But Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, said he reluctantly agreed with Gregoire the state can't afford a primary in 2012 under current conditions. Reed said he hoped it would be back in 2016.
The state canceled the 2004 presidential primary to save about $6.8 million during a one-day special session in December 2003.