Tomorrow, March 10, is the last chance for Washington voters to weigh in on which presidential candidate should receive their party’s nomination.
This presidential primary will be different than previous years thanks to Secretary of State Kim Wyman who passed a new legislation in 2019 giving Washington voters the opportunity to play a more important role in the nomination process.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Washington voters to have a greater voice in the nomination process for U.S. president,” Wyman said. “In addition to occurring earlier in the year, this primary will also mark the first time in state history both major political parties will use the results to allocate their delegates for the parties’ national conventions.”
In 2016, the Washington State Republican Party employed the results of the presidential primary to issue delegates to the Republican National Convention for the first time. Today, both major parties will employ this method.
Ever since ballots have been arriving in voter’s mailboxes, the Office of the Secretary of State has been fielding a great deal of questions regarding the primary. Here are some of the common questions they’ve received and answers given:
Q: Do I need to mark a party box? If so, why?
A: You will be required to select a party box for the presidential primary only. Major political parties will require that voters select a party to participate in the nomination process. The party you select will not affect or determine how you vote in any future elections.
On your ballot, you will be required to mark and sign your political party declaration on the envelope for your vote to count.
Q: How does this process work?
A: When your ballot is received it will be sorted into a stack of either Democratic votes or Republican votes. Each envelope will be checked by trained election workers who will verify that your signature matches that on your voter registration record. After passing the signature check, you will be credited for voting. Each ballot sorted into a pile will count toward that party’s vote after signature verification.
Q: What happens if I don’t declare a party?
A: You must declare a party and sign the envelope for your vote to be counted. The 2020 presidential primary is a nomination process that will be conducted for major parties. Wyman has advocated for an ‘unaffiliated’ option for voters, but it has yet to be approved by lawmakers. So, if you don’t declare a party, your vote will not be counted.
Q: What are “Uncommitted Delegates?”
A: The uncommitted delegate option that will appear on your ballot is an option that was requested by the Democratic Party. You can vote for one candidate or the uncommitted option, but not for both.
A vote for a candidate listed on the ballot will direct party delegates to support said candidate at their national convention. When you vote for uncommitted delegates, this allows the uncommitted delegates who represent Washington to decide during their national conventions.
Q: Why are those who dropped out of the race appearing on my ballot?
A: Each major political party will determine which candidates are printed on their side of the ballot. This final list was submitted on Jan. 7 to the Secretary of State’s Office. Once they have submitted this, it cannot be changed.
Q: Can I change my vote after voting for a candidate that has dropped out of the race?
A: Once your ballot is mailed in, you will not be able to change your vote. You can always check the status of your ballot on VoteWA.gov. If you have filled out your ballot but have yet to turn it in, you can print a replacement on the website or get a new ballot at your county election office.
Q: What’s the difference between the March presidential primary and the August primary?
A: The March presidential primary is a nomination process for major political party candidates for the U.S. presidency only. The August primary is when voters in Washington will narrow down the candidate field to two finishers that will qualify for the November general election.
Note: Voters will not be required to declare a party in the August primary or the November general election.
Q: Why are there only options for Democratic and Republican on the ballot?
A: State law notes that presidential primaries are only available to “a political party whose nominees for president and vice president received at least five percent of the total vote cast at the last presidential election.” This means that only Democratic and Republican parties qualify as major political parties.