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Originally published Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Top-2 primary at a glance

What is the top-two primary? Voters can vote for any candidate on the ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation...

What is the top-two primary? Voters can vote for any candidate on the ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

The argument against: The state's major political parties say it infringes on their rights by letting voters who don't share their beliefs help select their nominees for the general election.

It also allows candidates to list on the ballot which party they "prefer," even though they may not be blessed by that party.

The argument for: The Attorney General's Office and the Washington State Grange say the primary is not a nominating process and is not intended to pick each party's nominee for the general election.

Instead, the purpose of the primary is to winnow the number of candidates down to the two most popular, who will advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The decision: Writing for the 7-2 majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said overturning the top-two primary would be an "extraordinary and precipitous nullification of the will of the people."

He added, "there is simply no basis to presume that a well-informed electorate will interpret a candidate's party-preference designation to mean that the candidate is the party's chosen nominee."

— Seattle Times staff

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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