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Thurston County Elections  

Candidate Questions Regarding the
Top Two Primary

What does this mean for candidates?

Candidates must still file a declaration of candidacy with the auditor's office or the Secretary of State, depending on the office. Candidates will be allowed to state on the declaration of candidacy which political party they prefer, and that information will be listed on the ballot.

This is strictly an expression of that candidate’s preference.  It does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate.  For purposes of conducting elections, people running for office are not members of a particular party or candidates of a particular party.  Rather, they are candidates running for office, and are provided the opportunity to express a preference for a political party.

When is the filing period?
  The regular filing period is the Monday two weeks prior to Memorial Day ending the following Friday. 
Are minor party candidates still required to conduct conventions and collect signatures in order to run for office?

No.  All candidates use the same procedures to file for office and appear on the Primary Election ballot.  The Top Two Primary evens the playing field for candidates.  Candidates may list any party as the party that they prefer.

Minor party and independent candidates for President and Vice President are an exception.  They must still collect signatures and obtain the consent of the candidates.

Can the political parties prevent a candidate from expressing a preference for their party?

No.  Candidates are permitted to express a preference for any political party. The court ruled that the ability of candidates to express a preference for a party does not severely burden the rights of the party.

Can the political parties still nominate candidates?

Yes.  State law no longer dictates how political parties conduct their nominations.  Now, the state and local parties decide how to conduct their nominations.  The rules for party-run nominations vary party to party, and even between the state and local parties.  Political parties can nominate multiple candidates for the same race.  The Court stated:

Whether parties nominate their own candidates outside the state-run primary is simply irrelevant. In fact, parties may now nominate candidates by whatever mechanism they choose because I-872 repealed Washington’s prior regulations governing party nominations. 

Can the political parties demand that their nominees be distinguished on the ballot?

No.  The law does not allow nominations or endorsements by interest groups, political action committees, political parties, labor unions, editorial boards, or other private organizations to be printed on the ballot.

The Supreme Court ruled the political parties do not have a constitutional right to have their nominees distinguished on the ballot.  The Supreme Court said:

It is true that parties may no longer indicate their nominees on the ballot, but that is unexceptionable:  The First Amendment does not give political parties a right to have their nominees designated as such on the ballot. … Parties do not gain such a right simply because the State affords candidates the opportunity to indicate their party preference on the ballot.  “Ballots serve primarily to elect candidates, not as forums for political expression.”

Can candidates advertise themselves as nominees of a political party?

Yes.  Candidates can promote themselves in voters’ pamphlets, advertisements, and other forums as the nominees of a political party.

After candidate filing week, can a major party fill vacancies on the major party ticket?

No.  This process was specifically repealed in I-872 because there is no major party ticket in a Top Two Primary.  All candidates are treated the same.

A race will only be reopened for a special filing period if there is a void in candidacy, meaning no candidates filed during the regular filing period.

If only one or two candidates file, will that race skip the Primary and only appear on the General Election ballot?

No. Even if only one or two candidates file for a partisan office, that race will still appear in the Primary Election.  It is only in nonpartisan elections that the race skips the Primary when just one or two candidates file.  (RCW 29A.52.220)

If a candidate for partisan office who was one of the top two vote-getters in the Primary dies or is disqualified before the General Election, will the party be allowed to name a replacement?

No.  In a Top Two Primary, a candidate’s party preference is purely for informational purposes and does not play any role in the administration of the election.  Because the candidates are not representatives or nominees of a political party, a party is not allowed to name a replacement candidate.  The laws that previously allowed the political parties to replace deceased or disqualified candidates were repealed in I-872.