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November 25, 2003
State Seeks U.S. Supreme Court Review of Blanket Primary

Olympia -The state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ruled Washington's blanket primary


unconstitutional, Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced today.

The petition for writ of certiorari filed today requests review of the 9th Circuit's decision that struck down Washington's blanket primary in September, asserting that it operates differently from a California primary rejected as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

"Washington's primary is very popular among voters and has withstood legal challenges dating back to 1936," said Gregoire.

The state asked for the review on the basis that the lower court wrongly struck down a longstanding electoral process which has been upheld by the state's highest court on two different occasions.

"I believe Washington's blanket primary is constitutional and we will pursue this case as long as there is a chance for victory," said Reed. "If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision is ultimately upheld, I will continue to fight for a system that gives voters freedom of political choice on the ballot and privacy."

The petition argues that the 9th Circuit failed to recognize that Washington's election system differs significantly from California's blanket primary in part because voters in Washington are not required to register by party affiliation.

The Washington case followed a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 that ruled California's blanket primary unconstitutional. Washington political parties then filed suit, arguing that under the California decision, Washington's blanket primary was also unconstitutional.

A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the state in March 2002, but the blanket primary was struck down by the 9th Circuit in September.

The political parties have 30 days to respond to the petition. The Supreme Court likely will decide early next year whether to hear the case, and if it does, it could issue an opinion later in the year or in 2005.


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