This year's primary unaffected by appeal

OLYMPIA — While it's likely the state will appeal last week's court ruling striking down the "top two" primary system, Secretary of State Sam Reed will not ask a judge to stay the decision, meaning that voters in this year's primary will vote along party lines.

"It's much more important that the 2005 primary be executed properly and that we don't have any mistakes," Reed said at a news conference in his office yesterday. "We absolutely need to know right now what kind of primary we're going to have here in the state of Washington."

Last year, voters passed Initiative 872 with 60 percent of the vote. Under the system it established, the top two vote-getters in the primary were to advance to the general election, regardless of party.

The state Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties sued in May, arguing that measure was unconstitutional because it removed the parties' ability to select their own candidates.

In a 40-page ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly said the state cannot allow voters to skip back and forth along party lines as they pick a favorite candidate for each office. Nor can it allow candidates to identify themselves by party on a ballot without that party's approval, Zilly wrote.

Without a request for a stay, the effect of the ruling means the state returns to the "Montana-style" primary it used during last fall's election.

When voters go to the polls Sept. 20, they will select one party's ballot and vote for their favorite candidates on that ballot.

Reed said it was important they stick with the Montana method for this year, because in the coming weeks, counties need to order the ballots and have them mailed out 18 days before the primary.