Court Rules that Washington State Top-Two Ballots Do Not Confuse Voters

The Ninth Circuit of appeals today handed down a unanimous opinion upholding the Washington State Top Two system.  The court was addressing the question of whether the State of Washington had designed its election ballots “in a manner that eliminates the risk of widespread voter confusion.” This question was left unaddressed in a previous court case, Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party (“Grange”).

In the court’s opinion, written by Judge Raymond Fisher, he said that the state had designed the ballots in an appropriate way:

“The ballots, and related informational materials, inform voters that, although each candidate for partisan office may specify a political party that he or she prefers, a candidate’s preference does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate. Given the design of the ballot, and in the absence of evidence of actual voter confusion we hold that Washington’s top two primary system, as implemented by the state, does not violate the First Amendment associational rights of the state’s political parties.”

According to former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, “This is a great day for individual voters’ right to speak for themselves without the interference of political parties. We look forward to California’s first Open Primary Top Two election this June.”

The court also affirmed the district court’s previous dismissal of the plaintiffs’ ballot access and trademark claims and reversed the district court’s order granting the state’s request for reimbursement of attorney’s fees paid in accordance with a 2006 stipulation.

The court’s full opinion.

Information about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.