State of Elections

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Category: Washington (page 1 of 3)

Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part Two

By: Rachael Sharp

As established in Part One, a facial analysis of two possible measures of competitiveness – margins of victory and incumbent reelection rates – seems to indicate that Washington’s independent redistricting commission has not been especially successful at accomplishing its mandated goal of creating competitive elections in the state. However, this analysis may not be dispositive as a judgement against the success of the commission as a whole. In fact, the lack of change in the metrics of competitiveness analyzed in Part One also may actually be an indicator of the commission’s success in other ways.

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part One

By Rachael Sharp

Prior to 1983, Washington was among the large number of states whose state and national electoral districts were drawn by its state legislature. This arrangement changed in 1983, when a constitutional amendment (as enacted in § 43 of the Constitution) made Washington the third state to have an independent commission conduct its redistricting process. Washington’s commission is a five-person panel made up of two Democratic appointees, two Republican appointees, and one nonvoting chairperson chosen by the four appointees.

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Seattle’s counterintuitive response to too much money in politics

By: Anna Ellermeier

In November 2015, voters in Seattle approved Initiative 122, creating the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. The program provides registered Seattle voters with four vouchers—or “democracy dollars”—each worth $25. Voters can then take these vouchers and give them to any candidate for city council, mayor, or city attorney who participates in the program.

Graphic_Democracy Voucher program

The idea for the initiative grew out of a concern about the role campaign financing plays in Seattle elections, and the sentiment that the rich, through their money, have a larger voice in politics. For example, a 2013 study revealed that half of the money raised for races in Seattle’s 2013 election cycle came from just 1,683 donors, which is about 0.3% of Seattle adults.

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WA: No Home, No Voice?

By: Anna Ellermeier

Homeless Seattleites face barriers to voting while the City Council decides the fate of tent cities and encampments

11.14 - Ellermeier - Post 2 - Graphic

Homeless individuals, in Seattle and across the county, face unique barriers to registering to vote and exercising their right to vote once registered. While a residential address is not required by the Washington State Constitution or by state statute, homeless Seattleites still face significant  challenges in this area.

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Ballot Initiatives for Marijuana Legalization Track Public Opinion

By Hannah Whiteker

Fans of direct democracy should be excited about the increased use of state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana use. Direct democracy  allows citizens to enact and change laws, instead of electing representatives to make important decisions for them. One of the ways that the United States utilizes direct democracy is through state ballot initiatives. If a group of voters wants to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a law in their state (there is no initiative process for federal elections), the group must first get enough voters to sign a petition supporting the initiative. The number of signatures required varies by state. If the group satisfies the signature requirement, the initiative is put on the ballot for the next statewide election to be voted on by the people.

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It Takes Two: Washington State’s Primary System Divides Scholars, Unites Parties

by Devin Braun

As states like Arizona contemplate changes to their electoral primary systems, it’s important to give an update of how Washington State, one of the nation’s premier laboratories of the Top Two primary, along with Louisiana and California, has fared politically and legally since its overhaul in 2004. Washington’s system emerged from the wreckage of the Supreme Court’s rejection of blanket primaries in the 2000 case California Democratic Party v. Jones. In Washington, all eligible candidates list their party of preference, including but not limited to classics like the Employment and Wealth Party, and the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the general election. The logic behind such a model is that by opening up the primary to more candidates at one time, the likelihood will be greater of having to get the necessary support from closer to the political center. This would, in turn, produce more moderate politicians, activate greater interest among politically independent voters, and cut back against the corrosive influence of party machines. Continue reading

Presidential primary suspended: Why doesn’t it matter?

by Eli Mackey

Washington State’s 2012 Presidential Primary is among the recent victims sacrificed at the altar of budgetary woes. The financial problems left in this listless economy granted no immunity to matters of seemingly great civic importance. Washington State has become the first in the nation to suspend its 2012 Presidential Primary election as a result of budgetary constraints.  Instead, Washington will rely on caucuses to determine which delegates to send to the convention. The caucuses, which measure the degree of support for a given candidate from a gathering of community members to determine the proportion of delegates, will be sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties. The move is said to save nearly ten million dollars from Washington State’s budget.

While Secretary of State, Sam Reed, notes that this is a one-time resolution in response to the 5.2 billion dollar budget gap, he indicated that the primary has more than ten times the turnout than the caucuses. For example, in 2008 the primary drew approximately 1.4 million people while the caucuses included fewer than 100,000. This may be due in part to the fact that the primary system does not exclude overseas voters. Caucuses are typically attended by individuals closely affiliated with their respective parties. As a result, the caucus forum gives party activists greater voice in a candidate’s election than the common voter might otherwise have given a primary. The GOP’s 2012 caucus will be held on March 3, while the Democrats’, with no challenge to President Obama’s renomination, will be held on April 15.

Washington voters passed an initiative establishing the primary system in 1989 reflecting the desire of ordinary people to be more engaged in the presidential electoral process. However, the delegate allocation has traditionally been left to caucus results. Even with the primary, the Democratic Party issues its delegates based on caucus results, while the Republican Party has allocated half of their delegates based on primary results with the other half on caucus results. Thus, some have rightfully pointed out that the primary system in Washington is largely symbolic as its results have only a partial impact. Given Washington State’s financial posture and the reality that the primary system has been largely ceremonial since its institution, it seems that it was a no–brainer for this legislation to be signed into law by the Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire. Continue reading

Sitting Down with Washington’s Director of Elections

I recently had a chance to have an email conversation with Nick Handy, Director of Elections under the Secretary of State for Washington.  With a dedication to public service and a knack for handling tough situations with sensitivity, Mr. Handy has served Washington well and entered a well-deserved retirement at the end of 2010.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?  What prepared you to be Director of Elections?

I am perhaps an unconventional appointment to an Elections Director position in that I had no experience in elections management prior to the appointment.

I was a long time personal and political friend of the Secretary of State.  I had 30 years experience in senior management in state and local government working in areas of high controversy and political scrutiny.  These included open government after Watergate, natural resource management during the spotted owl and endangered species debates, and oil spill preventing after Exxon Valdez. Continue reading

What’s Geauxing On: Everybody’s Copying Louisiana?

When one thinks of Louisiana, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is likely not “model for electoral reform.”  This, after all, is the electoral system that in recent years has brought a veritable parade of politicians whose terms in office have transitioned into terms in prison on corruption charges.  That’s why it may come as a surprise that there are movements afoot in states across the country to adopt the most unique element of Louisiana’s electoral system.

In 1976, Louisiana adopted a non-partisan blanket primary system for both its state and congressional elections.  Also known as an “open” or “top-two” primary, this unique system puts candidates of every party on the same ballot for the primary.  If any one candidate receives a majority of votes, that candidate is elected without any need for a general election.  If, as frequently happens when there are more than two candidates on the ballot, no candidate wins a majority of votes, the top-two candidates go on to a run-off general election. The goal of open primaries is to promote the election of more moderate candidates.  The theory, however, is controversial. Continue reading

I Know What You Did Last Summer: Signed a Petition in Washington

Last year, female Facebook users around the world updated their status messages with their bra color.  Version 2.0 of this breast cancer awareness marketing strategy ran this year.  Perhaps some things should be kept private.  But what about our politics?  As vast amounts of information goes digital – from individual campaign contributions to the personal communications of our officials – traditional notions of privacy are giving way to an era of sunshine in all aspects of our lives.

Enter (from stage right) Tim Eyman, a veteran ballot initiative activist in the state of Washington.  If state-wide ballot initiatives create a de facto citizen legislature, then Eyman is the conservative Washington citizen’s whip.  To get an idea on the ballot, initiative supporters must sign petitions, and give such information as their home addresses to verify they’re eligible to sign. Continue reading

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