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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Washington presidential primary ballot is set, even as Democratic field remains in flux

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 23, 2020

In this photo taken Sept. 19, 2018, an election worker reviews the Vietnamese-language final proof for the general election ballot at the King County Elections office in Renton. The list of candidates who will appear on Washington’s March 10 Presidential Primary have been finalized and will be mailed out this month. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
In this photo taken Sept. 19, 2018, an election worker reviews the Vietnamese-language final proof for the general election ballot at the King County Elections office in Renton. The list of candidates who will appear on Washington’s March 10 Presidential Primary have been finalized and will be mailed out this month. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

OLYMPIA – Washington voters who mark their presidential primary ballot for a Democrat will be able to choose among a baker’s dozen of candidates, some who are likely to be out of the race by the time ballots are due on March 10.

Those who want to mark the ballot for a Republican will have one choice, President Donald Trump.

The state’s major political party organizations submitted their list of names to the Secretary of State, which finalized the ballot lineup Tuesday.

The Democratic list will consist of Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. It will also have an “uncommitted” option, allowing a voter to support sending one or more uncommitted delegates to the Democratic National Convention, and a space for a write-in candidate.

Candidates who get at least 15% of the vote in a congressional district can receive a proportional share of the delegates awarded to that district. Those who get 15% statewide get a share of the at-large delegates from Washington.

To qualify for the Democratic ballot, candidates had to gather 1,000 signatures from Washington voters and pay a $2,500 administrative fee, part of which went to cover the cost of verifying the signatures, Will Casey, a state party spokesman said. Some candidates, including Marianne Williamson, tried to qualify but didn’t submit their paperwork before the deadline.

Kamala Harris and Julian Castro qualified for the ballot, but asked their names not be on the Washington ballot after they suspended their campaigns, Casey said.

The state will count votes cast for a write-in candidate who enters the race late – or re-enters it after dropping out – if the state party notifies it by March 3, said Kylee Zabel, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office.

Party rules only allow candidates who qualified for the ballot to have their write-in votes counted toward delegate selection, so only Harris and Castro could request that, Casey said.

The Democratic field has shrunk significantly in the last six months as announced candidates, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, dropped out. It is expected to be even smaller by March 10, after caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina in February, plus 13 state primaries on “Super Tuesday” on March 3.

Ballots for the state’s 4.4 million voters have to go to the printers this month, so they can be prepared and mailed to overseas voters by Jan. 25 and to everyone else by Feb. 21, Zabel said. The state will also mail a voter’s guide with all the candidates on the ballot starting Feb. 12.

Like other Washington elections, the presidential primary allows voters to mark and return their mail-in ballot any time after they receive it and before 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters who turn in a ballot marked for a candidate who drops out before March 10 can’t get the ballot back for a new choice.

Although Trump is not the only Republican who has announced a campaign for president, he was the only one who met all of the state party’s criteria for being on the list, party spokesman Kyle Fischer said. That included filing with the Federal Elections Commission, which former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh and perennial candidate Rocky de la Fuente have done.

It also required getting signatures of at least 12 state committee members on a petition and paying an administrative fee of $12,000. The Weld campaign contacted the state party about the criteria, but didn’t follow through with a formal submission, Fischer said.

The presidential primary ballot will be a single page that features all the Democratic options on one side and the Republican option on the other.

Washington voters don’t register by party, but for their presidential primary vote to be counted they have to check a box on the return envelope declaring they consider themselves a member of the party of the candidate for whom they are voting, and the candidate marked on the ballot must match the party.

In other words, voters can’t have their ballots counted if they claim to be a Democrat but vote for Trump because they are unhappy with their choices or claim to be a Republican but cast a protest vote for a Democrat.

Marking the party affiliation box doesn’t affect the ability to vote for candidates of another party or independents in the state’s top two primary in August or the November general election. But it does mean a person can’t vote for a candidate of one party and attend the other party’s caucuses, which start the process for picking delegates for upcoming conventions and party platforms.

Washington Democrats will start their convention delegate selection process with legislative district caucuses, while Republicans will start with precinct caucuses.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said both parties would start with precinct caucuses and misspelled Kylee Zabel’s name.

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