For a few more days, voters throughout the state have an opportunity to make their voices heard in the nomination process for U.S. president. Washington’s presidential primary happens every four years and is unlike any other election. Instead of selecting a candidate to win the presidency, you tell the political party of your choice whom they should nominate to run for president.
For your vote to be counted in this political party activity, you must select either the Democratic oath or Republican oath on your ballot envelope and vote for a candidate from the party you claim to affiliate with. This is the only primary in which you are required to declare a party affiliation.
Our fiercely independent voters historically do not like picking a party and this year is no different. That’s why the Secretary of State’s Office has been advocating since 2015 for the Legislature to reinstate an option for voters to not affiliate and still have their vote counted. Since ballots began to arrive in late February, the phones at our respective offices have been ringing off the hook and our email inboxes are full of messages from voters frustrated that they have to declare a party affiliation in order for their vote to count. As much as voters dislike marking the oath on the return envelope, we ask that you take a moment to consider participating.
Both political parties will use the results to allocate their delegates to their national conventions. This means every voter in Washington has the opportunity to participate in nominating the presidential candidate for both major political parties. Party caucuses will still be held to select the actual delegates who will attend the national conventions. The delegates will be bound by the presidential primary results in the first round.
The primary is early, so Washington really counts. Our presidential primary is now one week after Super Tuesday. For at least one political party, the Washington primary results could play an important part in the ultimate outcome of the nomination.
Your primary vote is secret. The party oath you select will be part of your publicly available voter registration record for 60 days after the primary. That is required by the rules negotiated between the Legislature and the political parties. However, whom you vote for on your ballot will remain secret.
This presidential primary is an exciting opportunity for Washington voters to have a meaningful voice in selecting candidates for the general election in November. Already, we have seen a number of presidential candidates visit to learn about our state’s issues, engage with our voters, and hopefully form a better understanding of Washington. Our state electorate is diverse, and it’s about time Washington voters have the chance to play a significant role on the national stage.
We respect that some voters don’t want to affiliate with either of these political parties and will choose not to participate in this political party decision. We just want you to know the facts and the impacts so that you make an informed decision.
Kim Wyman, a Republican, is a former Thurston County auditor and Washington’s secretary of state since 2013. Vicky Dalton, a Democrat, is the Spokane County auditor, since 1999.
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