KCTS 9 Connects/2012 Primary Elections - August 3, 2012

2012 Primary Elections
  • KCTS 9 Connects

2012 Primary Elections

We take an in-depth look at some of the major state races, including the 1st Congressional District, Secretary of State, and Washington State Supreme Court.

  • About
  • Sam Reed Transcript
  • Stuart Elway and David Domke Transcript
  • Andrew Seigel Transcript

About the Episode

This week, we feature a one-hour special VOTE 2012 edition of Connects as we preview the major races in the August 7th Primary Election. We'll cover the candidates and their chances in the 1st, 6th, and 10th Congressional District races where there are no incumbents. Plus, we review the candidates and issues in the races for Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and Washington state Supreme Court.

Enrique Cerna:
As we said, the primary was moved earlier this year to accommodate overseas military voters. But secretary of state Sam Reed is still urging a big turn out in the primary. And joining me now from Olympia is secretary of state Sam Reed. Thank you very much, Sam, for joining us. Appreciate it.

Sam Reed:
Well, thank you, Enrique.

Enrique Cerna:
All right. What kind of a turn out are you expecting in this primary?

Sam Reed:
My prediction is for 46%, which would be a good turn out, not a great turn out but a good turn out. And it's based upon having such good races. We have four open seats for state wide office. Three open seats for the U.S. house of representatives. A hot Governor race, a hot Senate race. So all should add up to a pretty darn good turn out.

Enrique Cerna:
Not bad for everything and this time of year especially. Let's clarify, ballots must be post marked by Tuesday or they can be dropped off at a specific location by 8:00 p.m. How can voters find a drop off location?

Sam Reed:
They can go into my website, secretary of state's office website, and go into a, my vote icon, and when they get in there, give their name, their birth date, their gender, and up will come specific information for them on their drop off sites as well as all the candidates they individually are going to be voting on with links to voters pamphlets. If there's a voter pamphlet statement.

Enrique Cerna:
All right. Now, there are some races that are going to be settled in the primary. So the primary will be important for a number of people that are running, including one supreme court race. Other big races where that might happen. Can you help explain to viewers why some of these races might be settled now?

Sam Reed:
There is a different provision entirely in the Washington state constitution for judges. And you are correct. With the exception of district court judges, if a candidate wins a majority in the primary, essentially the race is over. For supreme court, one name moves on to the general election ballot. For your county superior courts, they are issued a certificate of election. Now, the other one is the nonpartisan race for superintendent of public instruction. And once again, if somebody gets a majority of the vote in the primary, the race is pretty much over.

Enrique Cerna:
So 50% plus, right, they have to get that?

Sam Reed:
Right.

Enrique Cerna:
Let me ask you about using federal immigration data and checking voters' eligibility, you've given some indication that this is something you want to do. I know that there are some groups that are very much opposed to that, have some deep concerns. Is this for sure something that's gonna happen?

Sam Reed:
Well, probably isn't going to happen this year, Enrique. But we here in Washington state had a pretty bad experience in the 2004 gubernatorial recount. The judge ruled that we allowed I think it was 1,679 people to vote here illegally registered. They were deceased, then felons. They were duplicate registrations and such. So I've been making a real effort since that time to clean up our roles and to make sure that our elections have integrity. And the next step is to identify citizens of the United States.

Enrique Cerna:
But you aren't going to, this isn't gonna happen this time around in this election period, is that what you're saying?

Sam Reed:
That's right. Homeland security has indicated they will cooperate, but as we've explored it more deeply, we find that it's going to be so complicated and so much based upon individual registrations, that it just isn't going to be practical for us to use it this year. But we, we feel at least they are beginning to cooperate in terms of letting us know who citizens are who were not citizens who are here illegally. So I hope we'll get to the point where they can provide us a data base to check against.

Enrique Cerna:
Very quickly, there are two items on the ballot, two tax advisory measures. Can you quickly explain these and why we're voting on them?

Sam Reed:
The citizens of the state of Washington voted for initiative where if there's a tax increase which they included a fee or they included eliminating, allowing people to have a tax deduction, that the voters well, first, the legislature has to vote by two thirds and the voters have a right to vote on them. So in November, the voters will have votes on two issues that came before the Washington state legislature in this last session.

Enrique Cerna:
All right. Well, we must leave it there. Secretary of state Sam Reed, enjoy the good weather. And we'll see what kind of turn out we actually get for this primary election. It's going to be a heck of an election year in the general, no doubt. Thanks, Sam.

Sam Reed:
Thank you very much.

Enrique Cerna:
We're going to look ahead a little bit right now toward the general election in November. Sometimes a single race or issue can have a larger impact on an election by mobilizing voters and getting people to vote who might not normally. And we have a number of hot button issues facing us, not to mention one of the tightest gubernatorial races in the country. Joining me now, political pollster Stuart Elway and university of Washington communication professor David Domke, he's the chair of the department. He's also behind the U Dub election eye blogs from the campaign trail by UW students and faculty. Thank you both for being here. Stuart, let's start with you and your recent poll regarding the Governor's race, which some have looked at as an outlier because it had Inslee for the first time out substantially, 43 to 36 ahead of McKenna.

Stuart Elway:
Right.

Enrique Cerna:
Reaction you've gotten on that.

Stuart Elway:
Well, people are looking at it and saying, well, it's an outlier, but it also fits a trend. Inslee had been gaining all year long. The last three polls by me and others had showed an even race. And now he's out ahead. The interesting thing I thought was we did a poll in July of last year, and asked a generic question, republican or democrat for Governor. And it was 36 48. So McKenna right now has exactly the same number that the generic republican had a year ago. Inslee still is 5 points lower than the generic democrat. So I think what's happening is as people see the race, voters start to pay attention to the race, we're sort of heading to the default position for Washington voters.

Enrique Cerna:
All right. Let's talk about those political ads, David Domke. Jay Inslee came out with his ad which introduced him. Also, another ad focusing on jobs. McKenna has come out with his own ad introducing his own family and then his own jobs. What impact do you think they are having here?

David Domke:
This is the first, both these ads are the first introduction of these candidates to most people. They don't know the Attorney General or congressman that well. And I think right now Inslee has the upper hand with those ads. If you look at the kind of predominant ad for Inslee, he's standing there with a bulldozer and conveying this idea, like I'm a bulldozer and I took tough votes in congress. There's no downside to being strong in an ad. McKenna comes off as somebody who understands technology, but he comes off a little goofy in his ad. He's out running with his wife, he's sitting in front of the U Dub at the University of Washington, which I love, but the idea that he was running as class president when he was here. And Inslee is saying I was in congress. So I think those ads have elevated Inslee a bit.

Enrique Cerna:
Let's talk about the initiatives and how the initiatives might have an impact on the Governor's race. But the initiatives themselves, hot button items, we're talking charter schools, marijuana legalization, preserving same sex marriage legislation. So these are just really some hot button issues that the country is going to be looking at us. How do you see those playing out here? And also affecting this gubernatorial race?

David Domke:
I think that in terms of engagement, those are the kinds of initiatives or referendums that bring out voters, particularly maybe segments of the population that aren't that energized by a candidate, either a presidential or Governor's race. So I think that one of the pieces that interests me is really for the first time in the period that I can remember, the democrats perhaps hold the upper hand on some of these social issues. They've been losing on these for a number of years. But I think on same sex marriage, as Stuart might be able to speak to, I think the polling reflects that support. So I think that they're in the best position right now.

Enrique Cerna:
There's also a tax measure here, the return of the Tim Eyman antitax message there.

Stuart Elway:
Right. Well, there's three or four that are pretty controversial. Marijuana, charter schools, the tax limitation, and the same sex marriage. And the question is, are they gonna pull people to the polls that might not otherwise vote and in what direction? And the jury is still out on that. For one thing, Washington has one of the highest voter turn outs in the country. Four years ago, with a we had 85% turn out. It's hard to improve on that. That's registered voters. And four years before that, it was 82%, including 70% of voters under 35. They're young voters who we might hypothesize would be pulled to the polls by particularly marijuana and same sex marriage. What the marginal difference may be would be do people register and vote because of these? But I don't think we can get much more out of the people that are already registered. So 72% of eligible people are registered to vote. So there's a little margin of error there.

Enrique Cerna:
And your poll showed that only the Tim Eyman measure is only 50%, which is what the standard needs to be for initiatives.

Stuart Elway:
Typically, that's right. Over the last 20 years, we have polled on 54 ballot measures in the summer months. There have been more. But the ones we've polled on in the summer, of those who are poll the over 60% in the summer, 87% passed. Of those who are under 60% in the summer, only 24% passed. So the rule of thumb, if you're running a campaign for one of these things is you want to be over 60%. And none of these are. Only one of them is over 50%.

Enrique Cerna:
Give you the last word, we got about 20 seconds here. So what are you looking forward to here regarding these issues and also the impact on the Governor's race.

David Domke:
Do the Governor candidates embrace any of these initiatives? I would think that Inslee would embrace same sex marriage if not a couple. Will McKenna embrace the Eyman initiative will voters embrace the Eyman initiative is what's interesting to me.

Enrique Cerna:
A great election year. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

Enrique Cerna:
State supreme court Justice Steven Gonzalez commenting about Washington's system for electing judges. Not all states use elections to choose judges. In fact, Washington state is one of only 21 that uses elections to select all levels of the judiciary from municipal court on up to the state supreme court. So why do we elect our judiciary? Why aren't they appointed? Joining me now, Seattle university professor Andrew Segual to take up that and other questions. Why do we elect our judges?

Andrew Seigel:
There's been a back and forth in history among the states. And states have changed a lot of times. The thought is that on the one hand, you want judges with expertise. On the other hand, you want judges who are responsive to the people, you don't want to leave controlling the process. You want people who have kind of the popular sense of what justice is. The states have gone back and forth and the states are really divided now. Washington state has not gone back and forth. Washington state perhaps owek to its populist heritage like it has referendums and initiatives and things. It has always had judges elected from the beginning.

Enrique Cerna:
How do you think this works? Does it work well? Is it good for democracy? Is it good for the voters?

Andrew Seigel:
I mean there are pros and cons to both systems. And I understand why a lot of states elect. I'm of the camp that thinks that the states that have done the best are the states that have come up with some sort of intermediary system, some sort of system where they have gubernatorial appointments initially and then a panel and then legislative involvement. And at some point, the voters get to weigh in, perhaps through elections like a lot of states have.

Enrique Cerna:
And what about at the supreme court level? Because here, we have nationally, our U.S. supreme court. Lifetime appointment, federal judges are appointed for a lifetime. But why not on that level? Make it a lifetime appointment?

Andrew Seigel:
Well, the thought is, rightly or wrongly, that supreme courts are the final arbiter of the law in each state. And they get to make the hard decisions. They get to resolve the cases that are not necessarily determined by prior precedence, where there's room to go either way, where policy works its way in, where values work their way in. And it's most important at the supreme court level to have popular involvement. Because that's where judges have the most discretion. At the trial level, for example, arguably their decisions are determined by a prior precedence to a greater degree.

Enrique Cerna:
In one of the races right now, Steven Gonzalez, we just heard from, is running against a fellow from Kitsap county, Danielson. Nobody's really seen Danielson. We tried to bring him in here to be a part of the forum on this. He's a lawyer over there, but like I said, nobody's really heard from him, seen from him. For Gonzalez, he's even a bit concerned about the fact that being Latino, that someone's going to look at the ballot and they're just going to see the other person's last name and his last name, and that might work against him. How do you feel about that?

Andrew Seigel:
Don't have an opinion about him one way or the other, but that's a phenomenon you've seen nationally. The evidence is anecdotal, but it's there. A number of voters knew nothing about the candidates, but their names. And having a name that's familiar, having a name that is not ethically different, having a name that is similar to those of other popular figures in the state that you might get confused with, have benefited people across the country. Sure, that's something to note and be concerned about. It seems only to affect races on the margins. And when you've strongly qualified candidates like justice Gonzalez, who are running a strong election and a strong candidate, it's unlikely to affect the race. But you never know.

Enrique Cerna:
There's been debate about a case in West Virginia a few years ago, the Caperton case. Tell us about that case and the debate that it's reignited.

Andrew Seigel:
Sure. That's a case in which there was a justice who had been elected to the west Virginia supreme court who had gotten almost all his campaign money from one particular donor. The owner of a big coal company in the state. And a very crucial case came up involving that coal company that was worth a lot of money. And the justice declined to recuse himself. And the question before the supreme court was, could a state judge or presumably federal judge's refusal to recuse themselves based on the connection to the donor, to the parties, be sufficiently problematic to violate due process, meaning you couldn't get a fair trial? And the supreme court said yes. They said under all the circumstances of this case, the potential due process problem, they didn't really set out the boundaries. They made it sound like this was an outlier case and that there wouldn't be a lot of these cases, but they did say there was a constitutional limit to your ability to participate in cases with your big donors.

Enrique Cerna:
We'll see how this all plays out here. Actually, we'll be deciding some of these races here. It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be and who's actually going to end up having to go to the general. Thank you very much for your time.

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08/03/12

I did not learn anything I could not find out by reading the very informative brochure sent to voters in Kitsap County. I had hoped to find out much more about the various judges, but you did not have any of them on. I am one who believes that the present system for election judges is very unsatisfactory because the average voter in my opinion has no idea about the various candidates' qualifications or the issues.
In your 1-hour discussion there were plenty of clever inside remarks about the general issues but nothing that would help me decide in any of the contests. The one-hour program was a total waste in terms of giving me voter guidance.

08/06/12

Hi Svend,

We hosted a debate between the Washington State Supreme Court Judges the previous week. You can watch that debate here:
http://kcts9.org/vote-2012/washington-state-supreme-court-debate

Hope this helps

Annika
KCTS 9 Staff

08/04/12

I too was disappointed. Due to redistricting, I'm new to the 9th Congressional Districe and I was hoping to hear something about the 9th Congressional District race. Unfortunately, the media seems stuck on the race in the 1st.

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