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Eastern Washington Republicans might know the “who” for their precinct caucuses this weekend. Three of the four presidential hopefuls have stopped in Spokane over the last three weeks, and all of them have been debating and campaigning for months.
Caucus goers might also know the when, but it’s worth repeating: 10 a.m. Saturday.
They may be wondering about the where, which is a bit more complicated, considering there are more than 90 locations in Spokane County alone. Before getting to that list, a brief primer on the what and how of precinct caucuses:
Caucuses are essentially meetings of like-minded individuals. There are Democratic and Republican caucuses in Congress and the Legislature, as well as caucuses formed around geographic proximity or causes ranging from military families to farm products. A precinct caucus is a chance for people in a small geographic area, who consider themselves party members, to gather every two years to discuss issues. Every four years, they also discuss presidential candidates.
Washington voters don’t register by party. To attend a GOP caucus this weekend, you’ll have to declare yourself a Republican and promise not to attend Democratic caucuses in April. Upon arriving, you’ll get a straw poll ballot to mark a preference for one of the four GOP presidential candidates. The straw poll won’t decide presidential delegates, it’s just a snapshot of where caucus-goers are, and results for the state will be released that evening.
During the caucus, the group may discuss the merits of one or all candidates before asking for a show of support for each one. You can change your mind, and decide to support a different candidate than you marked on the ballot.
Based on the strength of the candidates, delegates from each precinct will be awarded for the county convention in April. The delegates at county conventions pick delegates to the state convention, who pick delegates to the national convention. That final group of delegates are pledged to presidential nominees, and changes in support can occur along the way. The caucuses are the beginning, not a conclusion, of determining the state’s support for presidential candidates.
The caucuses also deal with issues that may be part of the GOP county platform, or statement of principles. Depending on attendance for your particular precinct, the process can be over in less than a half hour, or it could go the full two hours. Party rules say the caucuses must end by noon.
Under the watchful eye of Ronald Reagan's portrait, Rick Santorum holds a press conference in the House Republican Caucus Room
OLYMPIA – Looking for a chance to “plant a flag” in Washington for the March 3 precinct caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped by the state Capitol Monday to chat with GOP legislators.