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7 Years Of Top-Two Primary Litigation In Wash. Comes To An End

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It took seven years and hundreds of court filings. Now the legal fight over Washington’s top-two primary is over. The US Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal brought by the state’s Democratic and Libertarian parties.

It’s an anticlimactic end to a protracted battle that pitted Washington’s Secretary of State -- and the will of voters -- against the state’s political parties.

It began in 2004 when Washington’s open primary was ruled unconstitutional. The state Grange put the top-two on the ballot as a replacement. Washington voters embraced the idea that the top two vote-getters move onto the general election.

But the state’s political parties wouldn’t stand for it. They litigated on the grounds that the top-two infringes on their rights to nominate candidates and decide who can claim party affiliation. The case traveled from U-S District Court to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to the US Supreme Court –- not once, but twice.

The Washington Republican Party eventually threw in the towel. But the Democratic and Libertarian parties fought on to the bitter end. In the words of Washington’s Libertarian Party Chair: “The top-two pretty much means death to the minor parties.”

On the Web:

Top Two Primary Litigation

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.