‘Top-two’ ruling could change nature of Kitsap races

Due to a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court, this year’s local races will have a different look than the past few elections.

In an action strongly opposed by the state’s political parties, the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 19 primary will advance to Nov. 4 general election, regardless of the party to which they belong.

This changes the process in specific ways. Previously, the winner of a partisan primary would advance to the election alone. If the other party had no candidate, then the winner of the primary would automatically win the election.

One such example is the 2006 Assessor’s race, where Republican incumbent Jim Avery was challenged in the primary by Kris Danielson, but no Democrats chose to run.

Avery won the primary, and the office.

Under the new rules, Avery and Danielson would have opposed each other again in the fall, appealing to the same voter base.

This year’s South Kitsap commissioner race could become another textbook case, but with variables.

Currently, Democrats Monty Mahan and Charlotte Garrido are the only declared candidates. If this holds, the two will face off twice.

The election results may differ, since commissioners’ races are voted on by district in the primary but countywide in the the general election.

For this reason, the losing candidate in the primary may flip the results in the general election if he or she garners enough support in the northern districts to overcome the primary winner’s margin of victory.

The new rules would not have changed the 2006 Central Kitsap commissioner’s race, since the two top total vote-getters, Josh Brown and Jack Hamilton, won their party’s nominations.

In a twist, newcomer Wally Carlson gained a lar-ger vote total than incumbent commissioner Patty Lent.

Lent supporters have believed she would have won re-election (or at least made it to the top two) if the new system was in place, which would have allowed Democratic voters to vote for Republican candidates in the primary.

Representatives of the Auditor’s Office recently attended two seminars conducted by the Washington Secretary of State’s office, designed to clarify the rules and simplify the process for the voters.

The Auditor’s Office expects to conduct voter education and outreach prior to the primary.

For more information call (360) 337-3708.

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