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September 29, 2008

The Grand Old Party Party?

Here's a fun lawsuit! Washington state Democrats went to court to try to force Dino Rossi, Republican candidate for governor, to identify himself on the ballot as "Republican". Instead, Rossi has listed himself as representing the "GOP Party". The judge ruled that although the party listing is confusing, it's technically within the law and since early voting has already begun, should stay on the ballot.

State Democrats sued last week, saying Rossi was trying to hide his party affiliation because of low approval ratings for the party nationally. They cited a recent poll that showed some voters don't know what GOP means. "The use of the term 'GOP' by Dino Rossi to try to cloak his membership in the Republican Party, we think, is a tactic that shouldn't be allowed to be used," said Kevin Hamilton, an attorney for the Democrats. Republicans and the Rossi campaign argued that Rossi has used the term "GOP" for years and that voters know what it means.

The state, arguing against the Democratic Party's lawsuit, said there wasn't time to reprint thousands of ballots that already have been readied for the November election. More than 2,000 military ballots have been mailed, and almost 150 have been completed and returned, according to the Secretary of State's Office. "I'm not sure the extent to which all of the parties to this litigation get the fact that the general election is already under way," said Katie Blinn, the state assistant director of elections.

Much of Friday's hearing was spent discussing the administrative hassle that would come with reprinting ballots. But Judge Richard Eadie said it came down to two state statutes: one that says candidates can list their own party affiliations, and one that says the affiliations should be listed the same way on both primary- and general-election ballots.

"It seems to me some confusion is unavoidable — inevitable," Eadie said. But he felt it was better to take the chance some people might be confused in the governor's race than to have two different ballots being used in the same election. "I think going out and changing the ballot now ... would open the door to any number of issues about the finality of this election," he said.

The Democrats pointed to a Sept. 19 letter indicating that Republican leaders, too, have been concerned about polls by local pollster Stuart Elway showing that as many as 18 percent of Republicans didn't know that GOP and Republican are synonyms.

We get that the Democrats lost the lawsuit because there's nothing in the state election laws that forbids what Rossi did, and because it would have been a big inconvenient mess to reprint all of the ballots that have already been printed this close to the election. But we still think Rossi was stupid to list his party affiliation that way - ballots should have correct party names, not nicknames. Sure, most people probably know that GOP is a nickname for the Republican party, but not everyone does, so referring to your affiliation that way on a ballot can only cause confusion. Why is that necessary? Does Rossi just love the nickname GOP so much that he can't stand to ever refer to his party by its proper name? Surely he couldn't possibly be trying to distance himself from the unpopular Bush administration in what's generally considered to be a blue state, right? That can't be it.

If you're so ashamed of your party that you need to try to hide behind a potentially confusing nickname, you need to change your party affiliation, not your listing on the ballot.

Here's Rachel Maddow's take. The GOP Party - double the party, double the fun! We love her.

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