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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 31, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Precinct committee officers: Do they aid the election process?

PCO candidates vital to public involvement

I question Kate Riley’s column [“End free ballot ride for parties,” Opinion, Aug. 28] in which she questions public balloting for precinct committee officers (PCOs).

What does she propose instead? Should the parties elect them at caucuses? Who attends caucuses? One percent of the people, maybe?

Having PCO candidates on the primary-election ballot gives the general public their one opportunity to choose party officials. Is there not a public interest here?

Take it away, and the parties would be even less accountable than they already are.

— John Carlin, Edmonds

Parties cut budgets while taking tax dollars for operations

Kate Riley’s column exposes the hypocrisy of Washington’s Republican and Democratic parties, which demand an election system that favors the perpetuation of party apparatus — as long as the taxpayers fund it.

It is unbelievable that we effectively give the King County major parties $2.4 million every two years to fund their private precinct committee officer elections, while police, prosecutors, courts and other essential county-government services face repeated cuts.

As a commissioner for a small park district on Vashon Island, we are forced to pay King County a substantial part of our budget every two years to fund unopposed commissioner elections. These costs are determined based on the number of jurisdictions on the ballot and the cost of the election itself. It is unacceptable that we ultimately have less money to support kids playing in parks because the major political parties get their elections for free, and the costs are shifted to everyone else.

But this is not the only area where our major parties have perpetuated their own existence through public funding of party activities.

Our Legislature employs partisan staff that represent the interests of the Democrats or the Republicans, rather than the interests of the public.

At taxpayer expense, these partisan staff are given generous salaries, provided with office space and more. At the same time the Legislature in Olympia is cutting basic public education, it is maintaining its own party structure on the public dollar. This is the same Olympia, by the way, that provides free access to the ballot for its own parties while those same parties sue us in federal court for not giving them enough.

It is increasingly clear that George Washington’s warnings against party politics were right. Reflecting our current broken political system, Washington warned that political parties “distract the public councils, and enfeeble the public administration agitate the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; [and] kindle the animosity of one against another.” Sound familiar?

Following George Washington’s advice, it is time for our Washington to remove all party apparatus from the state and county dole. It is clear the political parties are not working for us.

— David Hackett, Vashon Island

Comments | More in Election, Politics, Statewide offices, Washington Legislature

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