Candidate-Centered Top-Two Non-Partisan Primary Vulnerable to Manipulation

UPDATE: Two of the three Bob Fergusons have since withdrawn their papers.

This obscure but fascinating story from the Seattle Times reveals the vulnerability of top-two non-partisan primaries to partisan manipulation. Democratic Governor Jay Inslee is stepping down, leaving Washington’s governorship an open race for the first time since 2012. A leading contender for the seat is Bob Ferguson, the state attorney general. Presumably concerned about his prospects, “conservative activist Glen Morgan recruited two people who share a name with the Democratic front-runner for governor to also seek the state’s highest office. ” These two Bob Fergusons officially filed to run last Friday, leaving Washington’s election officials scrambling about how to address the potential voter confusion. Obviously, in a party-centered primary, the party label would be the solution. The law leaves the Secretary of State the option of otherwise differentiating between candidates, such as by occupation or incumbency status. Apart from the question of how effective that will be, I wonder if that would raise bases for challenging the primary election results.

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