Sep 04 2012

Socialist Alternative Party Wins Washington State Lawsuit to Have Party Label on Ballot

Source: Ballot Access News

On August 31, a King County, Washington Superior Court ordered the Secretary of State and the King County elections office to print “Socialist Altern.” on the ballot next to the name of that party’s candidate for the legislature, Kshama Sawant, and also in the Voters Pamphlet. If the party had not won the case, the ballot and the pamphlet would have said that she has “no party preference”. The case is In Re King County General Election Ballot and Party Preference of Kshama Sawant, no. 12-2-28163-7. See this story.

Sawant had filed to be on the primary ballot for State House, district 43, position 1. Washington state legislative districts let the voters elect two representatives from each district. However, the two races are separate, in the sense that candidates must file for either position 1 or position 2. All the candidates who file for position 1 run against each other, and similarly for position 2.

After primary filing was complete, Sawant decided she would rather run for position 2, so she and her supporters carried on a write-in campaign for her in the position 2 race. There were two candidates’ names on the primary ballot for position 2. One was the Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, a Democrat. The other was an independent candidate, Gregory Gadow. But Gadow decided he didn’t want to run, and even though his name remained on the primary ballot, he asked his supporters to write-in Sawant. Also, “The Stranger”, a weekly newspaper in Seattle, urged its readers to write-in Sawant. The vote returns were Chopp 24,287; Gadow 2,585; and 3,908 write-ins. Sawant got 2,854 of those write-ins, so she placed second, and her name will be on the November ballot. The case arose when elections officials told Sawant that candidates who place first or second in the primary via write-ins, and who had not been declared write-in candidates, may not have their party preference printed on the November ballot. Sawant did not file as a declared write-in because it was illegal for anyone who was already on the primary ballot for one office to file as a declared write-in for another office.

Sawant argued in court that it would be a disservice to the voters for the ballot to say she has no “party preference” when the truth is that she does. The state argued that to let her have her party on the ballot would disrupt “an orderly and fair election process.” The judge, in a two-page opinion, wrote, “the general election ballot and voters’ pamphlet must reflect Ms. Sawant’s party preference.” Thanks to Irv Sutley for this news.

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