Why is voting in America so difficult? Installment # 97: Washington state

Utter bafflement about the electoral process swept over me once more today as I noticed on CNN that there is a presidential primary scheduled for Washington state on Tuesday. Wait a minute, I thought, wasn’t there already a caucus there two weeks ago?

Yes, I was remembering correctly…. but apparently with the goal of sowing more electoral confusion, the state Democratic party also holds a primary. I read an article in the New York Times on the subject, and it was missing one of the key Six W questions: WHY? Frankly, I am not sure the author of the article had any idea what the answer to the question was.

So I went straight to the source, the Washington secretary of state, and my question was first on the list of Election FAQs:

Q: Why does Washington have a Presidential Primary?

In 1988, more than 200,000 Washington voters signed an Initiative to the Legislature proposing that a Presidential Primary be held. The Legislature adopted the initiative in 1989. The law states:

Thepresidential nominating caucus system in Washington State is unnecessarily
restrictive
of voter participation in that it discriminates against the elderly, the infirm,
women, the disabled, evening workers, and others
who are unable to attend caucuses and
therefore unable to fully participate in this most important quadrennial event that occurs in
our democratic system of government.

So the state adopted a primary because the caucus is undemocratic and discriminates against many residents of the state. So I guess question #2 should be: Why on earth does the state still have a caucus?

No answer on that one available.

Meanwhile, the primary appears to be largely pointless: according to the secretary of state, the Democratic party gets to choose whether to seat delegates based on the results of the caucus or the primary or a combination of both, and according to the New York Times, they’ve already decided:

Weve chosen our delegates, said Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

Chosen them in a manner a majority of voters in 1988 believed was “unnecessarily restrictive” and “discriminatory.” But, hey, this is 2008….. after the Florida debacle maybe the caucus doesn’t look so bad.

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