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Unpopular election near the finish line

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

The election that so many voters despise is almost over.

The 2004 primary election, in which voters for the first time in 70 years in Washington must vote straight political-party tickets if they're to vote at all in partisan races, will conclude next Tuesday when polling places close at 8 p.m.

In addition to in-person voting on election day, absentee ballots were mailed last month to citizens who requested them. Voters who want to participate in the new primary system must have their absentees in the return mail on or before Tuesday.

This is the first primary under a new state law that requires voters to choose a political party and vote only for that affiliation's candidates. The change was brought by a court order following a legal challenge by political parties of the old blanket-style primary, in which cross-party voting is allowed. A federal court ruled that type of voting is unconstitutional in primaries because it doesn't allow partisan voters to "freely" pick their party's candidates, though it remains in the general election in November.

People who preferred the blanket primary have complained, often angrily, to election officials and elected representatives. Some citizens have vowed not to vote at all in the primary, or at least not in partisan contests that require allegiance to one party or another.

King County election officials, noting there are ballot measures and non-partisan races for Superior Court judge to be decided, have urged voters not to sit the primary out.

In Federal Way, the only local partisan races are for the Legislature, all of which have single candidates per party who will automatically advance to the general election. There are regional or statewide partisan contests, however, including U.S. representative and governor.

Two ballot measures –– levy requests by the Federal Way Fire Department and King County Library –– directly affect Federal Way voters.

The head of county elections, Dean Logan, has predicted a countywide voter turnout the same or higher than in past years –– possibly as high as 40 percent of the approximately 1 million people who are registered to vote.

Through Wednesday this week, about 22 percent of the 549,646 absentee ballots that were issued for the primary had been returned by voters, and county elections officials Thursday projected a 43 percent return by election day.

Ironically, a statewide ballot measure in November could, if it passes, make this month's primary the only one of its kind in Washington history. Initiative 872, sponsored by the Washington Grange, would throw out the current system and allow voters to choose among all candidates. The two candidates receiving the most votes would advance to the general election, regardless of party.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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