U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Upholds Washington Primary System


The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Washington state’s primary system, SCOTUSblog reports.

The system allows the two candidates who get the most votes to face each other in the general election, even if they are from the same party, the Associated Press reports. In the primary, candidates are allowed to indicate their party preference, even if the party finds the candidate repugnant. The party preferences of the top two vote-getters are also listed on the general election ballot.

The Washington state Republican Party was the first to file a suit challenging the system. The action contended the system violated the party’s associational rights by usurping its right to nominate its own candidates and by forcing it to associate with candidates it does not endorse.

In a 7-2 decision (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog), the Supreme Court said the statute was not invalid on its face.

The court in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas said arguments against the system “rest on factual assumptions about voter confusion that can be evaluated only in the context of an as-applied challenge.”

“Respondents’ assertion that voters will misinterpret the party preference designation is sheer speculation,” the court said. “We are satisfied that there are a variety of ways in which the state could implement [the primary system] that would eliminate any real threat of voter confusion.”

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