Although there are no party primaries in the State of Washington, according to the Washington Secretary of State, "Each candidate for partisan office may state a political party that he or she prefers. A candidate's preference does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate." The system of party preference labels on the ballot is a consequence of the enactment of Initiative 872, passed in 2004. I-872 dictates that the top-two vote getters in each primary move onto the November 2 contest, regardless of party.
The fact that a candidate listed the "Happiness Party" as his or her ballot label doesn't mean that there is a political party in the traditional sense of that name.
According to the Seattle Weekly, "Many other states have erected hurdles to exclude minor parties, including signature requirements and other thresholds. Washington State, on the other hand, is pretty much wide-open about letting candidates and parties on the ballot. It's a new and unique system that seeks to provide voters with information. It's basically a nonpartisan voting system that allows candidates to send a message to voters in sixteen characters or less."
The ballot label system in use in the state creates a situation where a candidate can list a party preference that is similar, but not actually equal, to a real political party, as well as allowing candidates to express party preferences that correlate to parties that do not exist.
Jordan Schrader of the Tacoma News Tribune wrote:
- "So among candidates who filed today to run, we've already got a "Prefers Neither Party" (that would be Jon T. Haugen, running for the state House seat left vacant by Jaime Herrera's decision to run for Congress) and a "Prefers Lower Taxes Party" (a group with exactly one member, Tim Sutinen, challenging Rep. Brian Blake).
- Lots of candidates will be listed as "Prefers Democratic Party," but at least two, Sen. Paul Shinn and Louise Chadez, prefer the "Democrat Party," which strictly speaking, doesn't exist any more than the Lower Taxes Party. You usually only hear "Democrat Party" from Republicans using it as a pejorative term."
In addition to the Happiness Party, state house candidates in the State of Washington in 2010 listed the Senior Side Party, the Lower Taxes Party, and the Bull Moose Party as their preferred party label. These parties also do not appear to correlate to political parties that exist beyond ballot labels in the State of Washington.