State's primary election is now under way

Voters have about two weeks to cast their ballot in the Aug. 17 primary election, which will narrow the field to the top two candidates for each race.

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Primary Election Day is still two weeks away yet about a third of those who will cast ballots in the election have already done so.

And over the next two weeks the number of voters casting ballots will continue to grow. By the time it's within 24 hours of Election Day more than 75 percent will have cast their ballots.

All this makes it challenging for the candidates to campaign. Exactly when is the best time to get their message out?

Before Walla Walla County and most of Washington state went to all vote by mail, candidates waited until the final week before Election Day to make their best pitch. It was in the last week, sometimes in the last day or two, that campaigns reached a frenzy.

The change in voting is also a challenge for voters. They must start to focus on the races at the same time they prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Complicating this further is Washington's relatively new top-two primary system. The Aug. 17 Primary Election is only the second time Washington will use this voter-approved method of narrowing the field for the Nov. 2 General Election.

Under this system, the two candidates with the most votes regardless of political party are on the ballot in November. That means it is possible two Republicans or two Democrats could be on the General Election ballot.

In Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties it's likely -- very likely -- that the two finalists will be Republicans. In the past the Democratic Party in this region had to recruit candidates so there would be a challenge to the GOP candidate. Under the top-two system it's going to be far more difficult to convince Democrats to run for office in conservative Eastern Washington.

However, the positive is this system opens the door for moderate Republican candidates as they now have a chance to make it to the General Election by garnering support from Democrats and independents.

Exactly how it will all play out is still unknown. It might take three, four or five election cycles until we all get a solid feel for what's going to occur.

This year's primary election is an important one even though there are only a few races on the ballot.

In Walla Walla County voters will narrow the field for sheriff as three Republicans -- Jim Romine, John Turner and Bill White -- are aiming to make the November ballot. There is also a crowded race for county coroner.

Ballots are now being filled out and are being mailed daily.

Voters, too, have no time to waste. Become informed and make sure to cast your ballot between now and Aug. 17.



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