OLYMPIA – As Washington's first "top 2" election season opens with Filing Week on Monday, Secretary of State Sam Reed is urging "no funny business" when candidates express their political party preference as they officially sign up with state and local election officials.
Hundreds of candidates will officially launch their campaigns by filing for office, using the Internet, in-person filing or submitting the paperwork by mail. Filing fee is 1 percent of one year's salary for the office sought.
For the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the top 2 primary system adopted by citizen initiative in 2004, the filing will allow candidates to self-describe their political preference, but that won't imply that the person is nominated by or supported by the party.
The form candidates submit will allow up to 16 characters to provide the name of the party they prefer. Candidates cannot include profanity or imply or state that they are nominated or endorsed by the political party or that the party approves of or associates with them.
The regulations don't rule out candidates trying to wedge in additional information about themselves, such as "Anti-war Dem" or "Pro-life G.O.P", "Evans Republican" or "Jackson Democrat." But Reed, the state's chief elections officer, said he hopes candidates will simply list the actual name of a political party and not try to shoehorn in personal or political information.
"Running for office is very important business and my hope is that candidates play it straight and be serious with this," Reed said Friday. "If a person expects to get elected, they need to show they are taking this seriously and not play games. The voters deserve no less."
Candidates are free to publicize party endorsements, their incumbency or other descriptions in their campaigns and in voters' pamphlet statements, but Reed said he would like the actual ballot to be free of this material.
The party information will be displayed on the ballot as:
John Smith (Prefers Democratic Party)
Jane Doe (Prefers Republican Party)
Michael Martin (States No Party Preference)
Minor party candidates will also use this system. Presidential tickets will use conventions to qualify for the November ballot, and will not appear on the primary ballot.
Parties will no longer be allowed to fill any vacancies, because there will be no more major party tickets in a top 2 primary. All candidates are treated the same. A race can be reopened for a special filing period of no one files during the regular filing period.
In the primary, voters will be able to choose their favorite for each office without regard to party, and the top 2 vote-getters will advance to the general election. As approved by the voters and recently upheld by the high court, the primary will be a winnowing election to narrow the field for the November general election, and not a nominating election. Parties may hold their own nominating conventions to pick a favorite for each office. That information won't go on the ballot for the state-run primary or general elections.
Filing Week runs June 2-6, although candidates have had the option of filing by mail beginning Friday, May 16. Candidates for Congress, statewide office such as governor, and legislative and judicial districts that cross county lines must file with the Secretary of State. Candidates for legislative and judicial seats wholly within one county may file with the Secretary of State or local County Auditor. All other offices, including party precinct committee officers, will file with the County Auditor.
An increasingly popular way to file with the Secretary of State is online at www.secstate.wa.gov. Filings will be accepted after 9 a.m. on Monday, June 2, until 4 p.m. on Friday, June 6. The secure filings may be submitted at any hour of the day or night this way. About 70 percent of the state filings are expected via this method.
Filing fees for offices with annual salaries of $1,000 or more are 1 percent. For instance, it costs $1,652 to file for the U.S. House, $1636.18 to run for governor, and $418.80 to run for the Legislature. Indigent candidates may submit voter signatures at a rate of one per each dollar of the filing fee.
The filing period is about a month earlier than usual, following the Legislature's decision to move the primary forward about a month in order to allow more time between the primary and general elections.
The primary is Aug. 19. All but Pierce and King counties are voting entirely by mail and ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 19. The general election is Nov. 4.
For more information, please visit http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/filing_for_elective_office.aspx. For more information, including FAQ and background on the top 2 primary, click here.