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County prepping for Montana-style primary

The decision to configure September’s primary in the “Montana” style — where voters cannot cross party lines — has relieved some of the stress in the planning of the election.

On the other hand, the work has just begun.

“We’re still working with the Secretary of State to determine the best ballot designs,” said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. “We have to create something understandable to voters, that can be read by our software. We don’t know if this can be accomplished and how much it will cost.”

The Washington State Supreme Court last week upheld Gov. Gary Locke’s line-item veto creating a Montana-style primary instead of the Louisiana-style primary approved by legislators.

“I have said all along that I support the Montana system because it best preserves voter choice in the November general election,” Locke said. “The Louisiana system would be a poor option for Washington voters. It is likely unconstitutional, and it limits voter choice and participation. The Montana election system is a far better one.”

The Washington State Grange, which championed the blanket primary when it was first introduced in the 1930s, is attempting to place an initiative on the November statewide ballot allowing the top to vote-getters in any primary race, even if both are from the same party, to face each other in the general election. They failed to get enough signatures to get the referndum on the September ballot.

Under the Montana system, voters choose from a single party ballot in the primary election for partisan positions.

After the party selection, any votes for candidates of another party are rendered invalid. Flynn said she does not know of any software program that will recognize this distinction.

Flynn’s office must also make decisions about ballot size and weight. This influences the envelope size and postage amount.

“We want to make sure the ballots are light enough to be delivered with a single stamp,” she said. “Otherwise, people will have their ballots returned to them and their vote will be lost.”

Candidates for the September primary have until the end of July to formally file for any office. At that time, elections bureaus have about three weeks to get the ballots in the mail.

“For voters, June seems like it is a long time from September,” Flynn said. “But it really isn’t, when you consider all of the preparation that needs to be completed.”

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