Washington voters are livid over lack of privacy for preliminary ballots in the state primary. As reported by Liberty Nation, these ballots force voters to declare their party of choice – Democrat or Republican – with no other option available. Their selection appears on the outside of the form for all to see. Frustrated by this lack of confidentiality, many have elected not to submit their affiliation and thousands of ballots have been rejected as a result.
As of Friday, Feb. 27, nearly 680,000 ballots had been collected in the state and more than 36,000 were rejected because people did not want to declare a party. To make matters worse, the preferences people choose are made available to the public for 60 days, including names and addresses.
Curious as to what other Washingtonians were thinking about this new development, this writer took to Facebook and reached out for opinions. Of those who responded, only one person (from California) did not see anything wrong with the new system. Everyone else was, shall we say, less than pleased.
Jarrod Wood of Maple Valley, WA said:
“…If you choose a political party and stand by it no matter what that is than so much for being patriotic. As far as I’m concerned you might as well be a traitor. I think a good many people would like to consider themselves independent of any party. So to be forced to choose a party is nonsensical and just another method of control primarily from one party but I doubt it is limited solely to that party which would be Democrat. I think both parties are afraid of an independent strong hold. I think Trump is about as close as you come.”
“Here is the bottom line: It is NOT ok to force someone to choose a party, AND FORCE them to do so for all to see, to make their vote count, period. It is a private matter no matter WHO you support, and this new ‘policy’ sets a very dangerous precedent for EVERYONE.”
Washington’s primary is different than other elections because, as The Seattle Times reported, “it’s about choosing the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties.” The state can not make the private organizations that control the nomination process adhere to the results of the primary, though, and, in the past, caucuses were held to choose the presidential picks. This new policy, the Times explained, is a “kind of compromise to encourage the parties to use the results.” And here’s another interesting tidbit from the Seattle-based newspaper:
“By law, the ballots are designed by the secretary of state ‘in consultation with the major political parties.’ The primary law was last revised in 2019, with the passage of Senate Bill 5273, co-sponsored by 15 Democratic state senators. That bill specified that information regarding a voter’s ballot choice is public.”
Why were so many Democratic senators insistent on having such private information on the outside of the ballots? In the past, a flap on the envelope covered the answers. Assistant Secretary of State Mark Neary, according to the Times, said: “The positioning of the partisan declarations on the outside of the envelope is necessary because elections officials must sort the ballots by party before opening or counting them.”
Washingtonians have several concerns about being forced to publicly choose a party. There are always less than scrupulous people in the world, so what happens when a postal carrier or election official decides to toss a vote simply because they disapprove of the voter’s affiliation? For Republicans, there is only one choice on the ballot – Donald Trump – unless they wish to write in a candidate. This has the effect of singling out and publicly identifying Republican voters as “Trump supporters.” There are several options for Democrats, so those who choose that party are not telling the mail carrier and everyone else which candidate they are supporting.
Voters also have to sign a form promising that they will only vote for the candidate representing the party they chose. Some people have argued this would be illegal because if they support neither party but have to declare one, in order to vote, they might be committing a form of voter fraud.
The only naysayer in the unofficial Facebook poll is from Winton, CA, part of the Central Valley – an agricultural community that is more conservative than its big-city neighbors. Wendy Gatens Nedwicke said she doesn’t declare a party because she votes for the candidate instead of the party. She saw nothing wrong with having her choice plastered on the outside of the envelopes, though. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Everyone says I’m Democrat or [R]epublican on Facebook, Twitter, etc. everyone announces it on social media. So why should it matter if it’s printed on your forms.”
Wood and Hanan were quick to answer that question. “[Y]ou should absolutely care what is on the outside of that envelope,” Wood said. “How else do you keep honest elections honest? You can’t when there is stuff like this that will happen. And it will.” He referred to a picture of discarded ballots in bushes, presumably tossed by mail carriers.
“But it DOES matter,” Hanan argued. “Votes are supposed to be private, period. Declaring your ‘party’ (aka being FORCED to choose one instead of simply voting for the candidate you feel is most qualified) and then essentially declaring it for all the world to see is absolutely un-American. It angers me because it absolutely encroaches my privacy and right to not be discriminated against DESPITE my choice.”
Not all of those against the ballot policy are Trump supporters. Brenda Length Nelson of Federal Way, WA said, “I don’t like it. I’m neither. I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans. It depends on the candidate. At the moment I’m neither, and at the last election I wasn’t either. Didn’t vote for Trump, and no, NOT for Hillary either.”
And Laurie Clark of Renton, WA summed it up in a text response. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what party I vote for, that is my individual choice and if I want people to know I will tell them.”
What will be next? Will voters be required to disclose whom they are voting for or have their choice discounted? Although the state says the primary is the only election nomination that will force public declaration, what about the next one? What was the purpose, besides ease of counting ballots, for this Democrat-backed new policy? How many more votes will be rejected before the March 10 primary event, and how much will this affect the outcome?
Read more from Kelli Ballard.