All Politics is Local

State supreme court ruling could change political party election process

Last week, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that political parties can either elect or appoint legislative district chairs. The previous law required parties to elect its district chairs. The court ruled this law violated the First Amendment right to freedom of association and interfered with parties’ self-governance without good cause.

To see what sort of impact this ruling would have locally, I checked in with Clark County’s party chairs for their impressions.

David Gellatly, Republican chairman, said the CCRP bylaws were in line with the prior ruling and they only elected legislative district chairs.

“With this ruling, the members can change this in our bylaws at a later date if they choose to do so,” Gellatly said. “However, as it stands, this ruling has no effect on the current board nor will it conflict with how our LD chairs were elected. The ruling simply allows appointments if the body chooses that option. It does not prevent the body from continuing to elect these positions as it has been.”

Rich Rogers, chair of the Clark County Democrats, said the local party supports the court’s ruling.

“There really is no compelling reason for the state to be involved so deeply in internal political party operations,” Rogers said. “With our current top-two election system and no state party registration, many of these laws are outdated. We believe all political parties should have much more latitude and self-determination on how they organize and operate. Removing these restrictions from the state RCW would also allow a better opportunity for additional political parties to exist in Washington which I believe the citizens support.”

Rogers added that he believes the only party operations the state should continue to have a hand in is the Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s elections monitor.

“However, that being said, we need to simplify and clarify some of those regulations,” he said. “Nearly all local parties are run by unpaid volunteers who try their very best to be in compliance but the laws are often contradictory or unclear.”

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