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Sarah Smith Responds to Washington State Democrats’ Silence on VAN Access

A week ago, I reported on Washington State’s Democratic Party repeatedly ignoring congressional candidate Sarah Smith’s inquiries into obtaining VAN access for her candidacy.

Image Credit: NGPVAN

For a quick recap, check out Smith’s explanation of the situation below.

In the week since this situation was first reported, not much has been gained as far as answers from the state party. Her campaign was originally told by the Washington state Democratic Party that “candidates require endorsements from 51% of the Legislative Districts and the approval of the State Party Chair to gain access to VAN.” The Smith campaign has tried repeatedly to get clarification from the state party on:

  1. Where is the language for this bylaw?
  2. Why isn’t this bylaw implemented uniformly, and who voted to ratify this bylaw?

Once the Smith campaign has these answers they will push for this rule to be applied evenly to all candidates. Sarah Smith tells Progressive Army:

While I am disappointed with the State Party, I am absolutely impressed by the commitment and tenacity of the County and Legislative District leadership to address this issue on a local level while planning for a bigger picture address for the entire state in the near future. Our state wants transparency and this situation has revealed the areas that we, as a state party, can improve our processes to achieve that transparency.

I am optimistic that we can reach a solution and help come together as a state party around this issue so we might change the future of candidates here. This situation is not just about our campaign, it’s about every progressive campaign across the state of Washington and every campaign that will come after. We have an opportunity to leave the process better than how we found it and I believe there is a moral obligation on our part to ensure we do that. We are continuing our efforts working on resolutions, reaching out to the state party, and rallying the Legislative Districts and Counties to unify around the call for fair elections and interparty transparency.  We will be moving forward with aiding in the drafting of a resolution to call for the separation of campaign services and endorsements on the state level.  We will also be drafting a petition to be delivered to the state party with the names of those who stand with our vision of a Washington State Democratic Party that promotes inclusivity and openness for all candidates.


Even if you don’t think Sarah Smith has a chance of winning her primary against a long-standing democratic incumbent, the fact that she is fighting for systemic process changes that would afford future candidates a better chance in the future makes her candidacy worth watching and supporting.

Written by Andre Roberge

Father, Husband. Went to school for philosophy (university of WA) and now I work for a train company -- Interests include Labor Law, TILA, Unions, Paid Family Leave, Healthcare, Philosophy of Science, Fantasy Football and Open Government-- Fanboy of The Take Down with Nick Nowlin and The Way with Anoa. Follow Andre on Twitter @SubvertingPower.

Andre Roberge is a Researcher and Writer for Progressive Army.


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  1. In my state (NC), what you get from the VAN system is a list of voters in a set of precincts who are registered Democratic or unaffiliated, with addresses, phone numbers, age and gender, which recent elections they voted in, and if unaffiliated which party’s primary they voted in. This data is all available from the State Board of Elections. The VAN system just organizes it. What do you get in Washington, which has no voter registration by party and a top two primary system? Anything you can’t get from a phone book or the state?

    Votebuilder is an automatic dialing system that OFA brought in, but in the form I’ve used it it’s useless for a congressional race or any district race because it dials Democrats at random all over the state. I think this has got to be a big part of the reason the party has lost so many state and local seats since Obama took office.

    Under Washington’s system of voter registration and primaries, what would Sarah be getting that isn’t available elsewhere?

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A Blue Wave

Sarah Smith Responds to Washington State Democrats’ Silence on VAN Access