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Was Race A Factor In Judge's Election?

Liz Jones
08/10/2012

A judicial race in Washington state is raising questions about racial bias among voters.

TRANSCRIPT

In a race for Washington state Supreme Court Justice, there were just two candidates.

One of them did not campaign or raise any money. His one–page website shows zero endorsements. His own county bar association rated him as unqualified to be on the bench.

But he won about 42 percent of the vote in this week's primary election.

His name is Bruce Danielson.

And perhaps one thing that boosted his votes was the opponent's name: Steve Gonzalez.

Barreto: "We see very regularly, this is a quite common occurrence, that voters default to names."

That's Matt Barreto. He teaches political science at the University of Washington. He says preliminary results suggest that some voters picked a candidate base on their race.

Barreto: "What I've noticed so far is that Danielson seemed to do quite well, especially in a couple of counties, such as Yakima County that has had sort of a history of racial and ethnic tensions at the ballot box."

Danielson scored about 66 percent of the vote in Yakima County.

Steve Gonzalez is already on the state Supreme Court. The Governor appointed him last year to fill a vacancy.

The Washington Bar Association named him the 2011 Outstanding Judge of the Year, and his website lists hundreds of endorsements.

He won the election, but a lot of people are surprised at how close it was.

Barreto says a lack of information may have played into the results. Only a few counties printed and mailed voter guides this year, and in those areas, Barreto says Gonzalez came out ahead.

Barreto: "This should draw attention to just the low levels of information that were available to most voters in this election. I think the state played a role in that by not providing a voter guide."

State election officials say they did not print a voter guide this year due to budget constraints. In fact, they've only printed it for two primaries in the past dozen or so years.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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