On August 15, the Washington state Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit in state court in Thurston County, arguing that the Secretary of State is illegally treating the Republican Party as a qualified party, and that the Republican Party is not a qualified party. The case is Libertarian Party of Washington State v Reed, 12-2-01683-3. Here is the Complaint. The Complaint points out that the Republican Party had no nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010, whereas the Democratic Party did have a nominee. Because Washington state uses the top-two system, the process by which the Democratic Party obtained a nominee was by action of its 2010 state convention. The Democratic state convention chose Patty Murray, the incumbent. The Republican Party 2010 state convention, faced with a contest between two Republicans, Dino Rossi and Clint Didier, decided to remain neutral and made no nomination and no endorsement.
The Washington state definition of qualified party is “major party”. “Major party” is defined as a group that polled at least 5% for a statewide race, in the last election at which a statewide race was on the ballot. The U.S. Senate race in 2010 was the only statewide race in Washington. The definition of “major party” is “29A.04.086. ‘Major political party’ means a political party of which at least one nominee for president, vice president, United States senator, or a statewide office received at least 5% of the total vote cast at the preceding state general election in an even-numbered year. A political party qualifying as a major political party under this section retains such status until the next even-year election at which a candidate of that party does not achieve at least 5% of the vote for one of the previously specified offices. If none of these offices appear on the ballot in an even-year general election, the major party retains its status as a major party through that election.”
The Complaint also points out that a 2009 bill in the legislature, which would have altered the definition of “major party” to a group that had polled 5% in the last presidential election, failed to pass. Of course, if that bill had passed, the Republican Party clearly would be a “major party” in 2012 because it polled over 5% for President for its nominee in 2008.
The judge could theoretically declare the Washington state definition of qualified party to be unconstitutionally difficult, which would allow Mitt Romney to be on the November ballot and yet at the same time affirm that laws are meant to be applied even-handedly.