Voting Age Changed
18-year-olds gained the right to vote.
Special elections were allowed to be conducted by mail ballot.
For the first time, any registered voter in Washington could apply, in writing, for status as an ongoing absentee voter. Using this option, ballots for every election are sent to the voter through the mail.
Presidential Preference Primary
In 1992, Washington held its first Presidential Preference Primary. Voters disliked the primary because of the state’s strong tradition of voter independence. In the Presidential Preference Primary, voters had to choose a party-specific ballot with candidates from only one party.
In 1993, the National Voter Registration (‘Motor Voter’) Act required states to offer voter registration at drivers licensing and other government offices. Washington passed a ‘motor voter law’ in 1990.
The surge of new technology at the end of the 20th Century allowed for even better access to election information with the Internet. During this time, the popularity of absentee ballots grew because of their convenience and the opportunity they afford voters to educate themselves on candidates and issues.
Blanket Primary declared Constitutional
Washington won a Federal Court ruling to continue holding blanket primaries. In a blanket primary, all candidates from all parties are included on one ballot.
Help America Vote Act became Law
A number of new laws were enacted in response to the close Presidential election of 2000. States were required to replace punch card and lever voting machines, the independent Election Assistance Commission was established, the development of statewide voter registration data bases was mandated, and new standards were adopted to give disabled voters privacy in voting for the first time. Many of these changes take effect in 2006.
Blanket Primary declared Unconstitutional
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held Washington’s blanket primary system unconstitutional on the basis that it violated the political parties’ right of free association. In a blanket primary system, voters are not required to affiliate with a political party and may vote for any candidate on the ballot. The candidate from each political party who receives the most votes in the primary advances to the general election.
Pick-a-Party Primary became Law
Governor Locke signed a bill to implement the pick-a-party primary. Under this system, in addition to voting on nonpartisan races, registered voters choose one major party ballot for the partisan races and only vote for candidates affiliated with that party.
I-872 (Top 2 Primary) became Law
Written prior to the pick-a-party primary becoming law, Initiative 872 was approved by voters by nearly 60 percent. Under this system, voters are allowed to cast votes for any candidate, regardless of party. The two candidates for each office with the most votes advance to the general election.
Closest Gubernatorial Race in History Decided
Christine Gregoire became Governor by 133 votes after two recounts.
Election Reforms, Vote by Mail Option became Law
Election reforms passed as a result of the close Gubernatorial Race of 2004. For example, voters voting at the polls were required to show ID, and election administrators were provided additional time to process ballots after a general election. In addition, counties were given the option of conducting elections entirely by mail, resulting in more than two- thirds of the counties switching to this method of voting.
I-872 (Top 2 Primary) declared Unconstitutional
The U.S. District Court concluded that I-872’s version of the top 2 primary violated the political parties’ First Amendment right of free association. The Court ordered Washington to return to a pick-a-party primary, as used in 2004.
I-872 (Top 2 Primary) reinstated by U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the Top 2 Primary is Constitutional because it is not a nominating process and is not intended to pick each party’s nominee for the General Election. Rather, the purpose of a Top 2 Primary is to winnow the number of candidates to two, allowing voters to select the two most popular candidates to advance to the General Election. In essence, the court also concluded political parties cannot prohibit candidates from expressing their own political leanings.