It's been six years since Washington voters decided to drop the voting-by-party format that's standard in almost every other state in favor of a "jungle primary," where only the top two vote-getting candidates move on to a general election. But that doesn't mean reporters and political junkies outside of the Pacific Northwest have gotten any closer to understanding how things are done differently around here every other November.
That's wrong, says Secretary of State spokesperson Dave Ammons.
"When filing rolls around any candidate can file with any party they wish," he says. "They can even make up a name, so long as it's under 16 characters.
Ammons isn't surprised by the oversight. He says most national media also don't understand that Washington is now almost entirely vote-by-mail. A point hammered home during the midterm elections two weeks ago, when every talking head from CNN to MSNBC continued to cite 8 p.m. as the time when polls "closed."
"Maybe instead they should have said 'postmarks have been stamped,'" jokes Ammons.
The confusion over third-party candidates and polls is understandable, he says. After all, if there's any such thing as a cutting edge in electioneering, Washington is walking it. But don't expect the mix-ups to continue.
Back in June, California adopted its own version of the open-primary system already in place here. And Ammons says that after the most recent elections, nearly 40% of Golden Staters are casting ballots by mail. Meaning that while ignoring Washington's election-day evolution may be easy now, it won't be later so long as the biggest state in the country keeps following in its footsteps.