Primary ballot takes shape

Kitsap County is already preparing for the Sept. 14 primary election, designing a new ballot and embarking upon a voter education project on what has become an unprecedented political event in Washington.

For the first time, primary voters must declare a political party in order to select candidates for that party’s nomination.

This represents a change from the “open” primary process with which state voters are well accustomed. The primary was changed because California instituted a similar system, which was challenged and found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This will be controversial,” said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. “Washington voters are very independent. From our experience, they become angry when asked to declare a party preference.

“Because of this, they may not want to participate in the voting process at all.”

Lower participation is an election official’s worst nightmare, since fewer voters decrease the mandate. And Flynn doesn’t want to see anything decrease the turnout in Kitsap County – an impressive 79 percent in the 2000 general election.

Flynn unveiled the new ballot on Thursday afternoon in Silverdale, addressing Republican and Democratic officials and interested citizens about the changes.

The Kitsap ballot was designed in co-operation with auditors from King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

During the design, Flynn and other auditors felt the four ballot option – with separate ballots for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and unaffiliated – was the best option.

However, results of a voter focus group prompted a single ballot with four sections. Here, the voter must declare an affiliation at the top of the ballot, which validates choices in that particular party column.

The next step in ballot design will begin July 30, after the filing deadline expires and auditors can determine which names will be on the ballot.

“I don’t want to relive this,” Flynn said.

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