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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Regional primary moves action to West Coast

The Columbian, Vancouver, March 21:

Between them, Washington, Oregon and California have more than 50 million inhabitants – about one-sixth of the population of the United States. And none of those residents has yet been able to cast a vote in the races for the presidential nominations.

Yes, the candidates have been racking up points while voters on the Left Coast have been stuck on the sidelines. That is problematic for political parties wishing to engage the largest possible cross-section of the electorate in order to position themselves for the general election. And it is a problem for which Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state, has an obvious solution. Wyman is proposing a “Pac-12” coalition in which Western states would hold primaries on the same day and give the region some of the electoral power is deserves.

Instead, when Washington Democrats caucus on Saturday, it will be the first chance for West Coast voters to weigh in on a nominating process that has whittled the field. The practical result is that candidates largely ignore the West during primary season – because they can. Meanwhile, regionally important issues such as international trade, climate change, fisheries, forests and even the Hanford Nuclear Reservation go mostly ignored by the candidates.

The first step would be for the Legislature to move Washington’s primary to a spot such as early March. The second would be to convince other states in the region to move their primaries, as well. Ideally, a series of regional primaries would be devised, with the West voting first in one election cycle and, say, the South going first the next time around. But first things first. Over the next 11 weeks, voters in states abutting the Pacific Ocean will express their opinions regarding the nominees. Maybe in future years, those opinions will be meaningful.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, March 22:

Presidential primaries are the hot ticket across America. So will that enthusiasm be seen in Washington state when voters get their ballot for the May 24 presidential primary? Not likely. The late date for the primary combined with the fact voters must choose a political party to cast a ballot tends to temper passion. It’s too bad because taxpayers are paying more than $11 million to conduct the election.

Washington state has a history of political independence. Voters don’t like being told to pick a party. As a result, an initiative was filed by the Washington Grange creating a nonpartisan, top-two blanket primary in the state. That style of primary, however, does not include the May 24 election. Only those who are willing to publicly link themselves to one political party can cast ballots. In addition, Democrats are not using the primary for the allocation of delegates to determine the party’s nominee. That’s going to be done at precinct caucuses Saturday. The state Republican Party decided in September to allocate support for candidates based on the primary election results. Still, it’s not a direct vote for the candidates.

In the future, the Legislature should refuse to pay for a presidential primary unless both parties agree to use the results. It should set an earlier date so Washingtonians can be involved when it really matters.

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