Casting a ballot in Washington’s presidential primary may seem a little strange now, but after 8 p.m. Tuesday, it will be pointless.
That’s the deadline for having ballots properly marked, in their properly signed envelopes and either deposited in drop boxes or in the mail with a postmark.
Don’t forget to check the box on the envelope that indicates your support for the party of the candidate for whom you voted, and that you haven’t taken part in the other party’s nomination process this year.
The ballot has four Republican candidates – businessman Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and physician Ben Carson – even though Trump is the only remaining candidate from that party in the race. Carson didn’t officially notify the state elections office he had dropped out of the race, and Kasich and Cruz quit just as the printed ballots were going in the mail.
But the state Republican Party will divide its delegates based on the results of the primary, regardless of whether a candidate is formally in or out. Fourteen will be awarded proportionally based on the results of the statewide totals, and another 30 will be awarded based on proportional results in the state’s 10 congressional districts.
That’s the way Washington Republicans will cast the state’s ballots on the first round of voting at the convention in Cleveland. A month ago, when it seemed as though no candidate would arrive at the convention with a majority of the delegates, it made the Washington primary a key race in the closing weeks of the Republican nomination. Interest has diminished somewhat, because Trump is expected to have the majority by the time the primaries end in June.
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are also on the primary ballot, even though the state Democratic Party will ignore the results because it will award delegates through the caucus system.
Neither candidate has acknowledged the Washington primary, but that probably won’t bar the campaign with the most votes from claiming bragging rights after votes are counted.
The presidential primary is different from other elections in Washington. Voters must check a box on the return envelope that declares their membership or support of the party of the candidate for which they are voting. The state does not register voters by party, and has a primary system for other partisan offices that puts all candidates on a single ballot and sends the top two to the general election regardless of party preference.
That’s resulted in calls to elections offices around the state, some from voters asking how to mark the boxes, and others from voters angry they would have to.
“We do get ones that are mad,” Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said. “They say things like ‘I want to be independent. It’s my right to privacy. It’s no one’s business.’ ”
State elections officials said Friday more than 1 million had been turned in around the state, or about 1 in 4. Spokane County’s turnout was running slightly ahead of that rate, with 52 percent of them for Republicans and 48 percent for Democrats.
Voters who neglect to check the box on the envelope will be sent letters asking them to declare a party, and those ballots will only be counted if the voter responds.