Your ballot called, and it's lonely

How aggravating can one election be? The answer lies firmly in the one-third or so of the 9,000 presidential primary ballots that are essentially useless because no party preference was indicated on the outside of the envelope.

"This is a primary, and primaries belong to the parties," said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. "If a voter does not select one party or another, their ballot will not be counted."

Choose a side — red or blue, donkey or elephant — so you can stand up and be counted. The ballots themselves list all the official candidates on both the Democratic and Republican side, but in reality the pickings are slim. Only six of the 16 candidates are real, actual candidates as the rest have long since fallen by the wayside. The primaries whittle candidates for both parties so, by the time November rolls around, only the strongest and most well-funded survive.

This is where the system is skewed.

In this, the American melting pot, where diversity is embraced and individual rights are championed, there are really only two empowered (heavily funded) political parties.

How archaic is that?

Back now to Kitsap County. Those votes that did not have a party selected are being held so voters can call to check on their ballot. In essence, there are some 3,000 votes waiting in the lost and found like a kindergartner's Superman lunchbox.

Kitsap County voters received their ballots last week. The instructions are on the ballot say voters must choose a party, then draw a thin line to make your choice for who should be your party's last one standing come November.

If you suspect your ballot may be in the "hold" pile, give the Auditor's office a call at (360) 337-7128.

And if you haven't already mailed in your ballot, read some literature, get caught up on the candidates, make an informed choice and mail in your ballot.

Just be sure to choose a party so your voice can be heard.

While the percentage of invalid ballots is high, the Auditor's Office will not contact voters unless they failed to sign the ballot. If the outside is signed with no party preference, the ballot will not be opened.

But a voter who failed to select a party isn't completely out of luck. The ballots are held and voters can contact the Auditor to see if theirs has been disqualified.

If so, they can visit the Auditor's Office in Port Orchard and make the party selection at that time.

Since the oaths were written by the respective parties, the Democratic and Republican Party oaths differ. The Democrats require affirming "that I consider myself a DEMOCRAT and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2008 election."

The Republicans require more of a commitment, that "I am a member of the Republican Party."

This caught the attention of Vivian Henderson, Port Orchard, who usually leans Republican but said she does not want to declare "membership" in a political party.

That Flynn calls the oath a more of an indication of loyalty than an actual membership requirement does not satisfy Henderson.

"I am not going to say I belong to a party when I do not belong," Henderson said. "So I will probably vote for a Democrat. Got any suggestions?"

Kitsap County Republican Chairman Jack Hamilton acknowledges the difference in the wording, saying it reflects a difference between the two parties. He said that a voter could sign the oath without ever joining the GOP and become a Republican on the spot.

But it doesn't end there.

"You can sign the oath, but you then have a moral obligation," he said. "After you sign the next thing you do will be to go online to a Web site and find out exactly what you need to do to satisfy that obligation. Usually that involves signing up somewhere and sending in a few shekels."

To verify whether or not you checked the party box visit the Kitsap County Auditor's office in Port Orchard or call (360) 337-7128.

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