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Oregon's system better.

Byline: The Register-Guard

At the urging of Gov. Gary Locke and in a lightning-fast special session, the Washington Legislature has dumped its primary election for 2004.

The move makes sense for two reasons: The election's cancellation will save the state some $6 million. And Washington's primary was used mainly to choose national party convention delegates - not party nominees to state or local offices, as is the case in Oregon.

The primary was originally scheduled for March 2. Had it been held, it would have been nothing more than a beauty contest. It took the Washington House of Representatives just 13 minutes to vote to drop the primary. The vote was 84-7. The Washington Senate, more closely divided politically, took longer, but cast aside the primary by a vote of 25-22. That vote represented the minimum number of "yes" votes needed to pass legislation in the 49-member Senate.

So now, Washington Republicans, who already know that President Bush will be their 2004 presidential nominee, will conduct neighborhood caucuses on March 9 to choose convention delegates. Democrats will meet in Feb. 7 caucuses to start allocating their convention delegates. The Democrats, of course, have nine candidates seeking their party's nomination for the White House, so the delegate selection process on that side of the political fence will take longer and will involve a greater number of potential delegates.

Oregon has a better way of conducting a primary. The state holds an election in which candidates seek party members' nominations for various partisan offices, including the presidency, and the winners carry the party's banner into the November general election. In the presidential primary voting, it's a winner-take-all system and whichever Republican and Democratic candidates win get all of the delegates to the parties' nominating conventions.

In this state, only voters registered in a particular party - Democrat or Republican - can choose among their party's candidates for the nomination in the primary. Independents and members of minor parties vote in the general election, and in nonpartisan primary contests. Both Oregon parties flirted with "open" primaries, in which crossover voting is allowed, in two different elections. After the trials, both parties dropped the system and returned to the "closed" primary in use today. The system produces nominees backed by the voters of a particular party, and serves to preserve the distinction between the two major parties. That's how it should be.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Washington dumps its meaningless election
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 13, 2003
Previous Article:Killer whale Keiko dies of pneumonia.

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