Again, with feeling: Change state primary
If ever there were a no-brainer solution that could contribute to solving Washington's election travails, it is to move the primary a month earlier.
Yet concerns about limiting incumbents' fundraising abilities seem to have gotten in the way. Time to get priorities straight. Washington's primary on the third Tuesday in September has become increasingly troublesome as more voters opt to vote by mail.
Several counties are following Oregon's lead and going to all-mail voting, and King County Executive Ron Sims suggested mail voting for the state's largest county — and the one with the most notorious election problems.
If a primary race were as close as the 2004 gubernatorial election requiring multiple recounts, the primary's late date could derail chances the general election ballot would be prepared in time to reach voters around the state, let alone those farther flung.
Secretary of State Sam Reed wants to move the primary a full month ahead — to the third Tuesday in August — giving much-needed breathing room for election administration, but also for election ballots that must head to Washington voters overseas and back again.
The commanding general of the Washington Army and Air National Guard supports the move to ensure those under his command get to fully participate in the political process.
Last year, the House passed a similar bill, but, disappointingly, the Senate failed to. This year, Sen. Jim Kastama, chair of the Senate Operations and Government Committee, says the proposal is a priority. And both the Republican and Democratic parties support it. That's good to hear.
You would think, with all that support, an earlier primary would have sailed through. But there is haggling about campaign fundraising rules.
An earlier primary would pare a month off the time state lawmakers have to raise money — they can't actively do so during the legislative session.
But incumbents already have an advantage and there's the possibility that some of the restrictions could be relaxed without sacrificing ethical concerns.
The priority here should be to minimize the chance that any Washington voter, whether in King County or in Iraq, is disenfranchised — not to preserve a fundraising window. Otherwise, Washington state will continue to flirt with election disaster.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company