WA State Democratic Presidential Primary

By the weekend of February 22, a month from now, you should have your ballot in hand for the Washington State Democratic (and Republican) Presidential Primary (assuming your voter registration is in order). Tuesday, March 10, just seven weeks from now, is the ballot turn-in deadline. Startling fact: the ballots are already printed. That was finalized January 7. There will be candidates on the ballot who have already dropped out.  

If you choose to vote in the 2020 Democratic ticket in this Presidential Primary (as opposed to casting a ballot for Donald Trump on the reverse side of the ballot), then these are your choices: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, “uncommitted”, or write-in. (read more detail from Jim Camden in the Spokesman). Having trouble keeping track? I am. For example, Cory Booker dropped out after the ballots were printed. Click Ballotpedia, 2020 Presidential Candidates, for an up-to-date national listing of who’s in and who’s out.

The Washington State Democratic Party process for 2020 for choosing its preferred Presidential candidate begins earlier this year than in 2016. It relies on the election results rather than caucuses, also in contrast to 2016. This should give Washington voters a bigger voice than in the past–that’s why it changed. (See the P.S. below for my review of the WA State process in 2016–it was very convoluted. Hindsight makes it a little clearer.)

The national Democratic Party will ultimately chose its Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates at the Democratic National Convention that will be held in July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The process is complex but not incomprehensible. Click the last link (repeated here) if you have the time and interest to delve into some of the details.

The take-home messages from all this for the Washington State voter are:

1) When you vote in the March 10 Presidential Primary do your homework. Don’t waste your ballot on a candidate who has already dropped out. The ballots are already printed. Inform your friends of this quirk.

2) This year Washington State voters will make their voice heard earlier in the process (by about 2 weeks) and by casting a ballot rather than attending a caucus. These are important differences (see P.S. below)

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE Remember 2016? Let’s review a little history (because things have changed). My memory of 2016, it turns out, was a bit dim. There were local caucuses on Saturday, March 26th, which I remember as exciting, but confusing and chaotic. Statewide, about 230,000 enthusiastic voters (out of 3,906,000 total WA State registered voters) participated in the Democratic caucuses. On the basis of those caucus results the WA State Democratic Party eventually elected (on May 21st) 118 delegates to the Democratic National Convention–with 74 (63%) of them committed to Bernie Sanders.

But wait! Didn’t we also have a Washington State Presidential Primary election in 2016? Yes. On May 24th 802,754 (of those 3,906,000 total registered voters, those nearly 4M include both Democrats and Republicans, of course) cast votes in the WA State Democratic Primary Election for either Clinton or Sanders. With three times as many voters as participated in the caucuses bothering to participate, Clinton won with 52% of the vote.

Did this system make any sense? In a way the caucuses demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders. These people actually bothered to take time on a Saturday to participate. Was the caucus excitement and voting an accurate measure of enthusiasm that would have resulted in a higher level of voter turnout for Sanders than turned out to vote for Hillary Clinton in November?  How many potential voters were so discouraged by the process (after all, the delegates were already selected) that they didn’t even turn in a ballot in the May 24th Presidential Primary Election? How many didn’t participate at all, perhaps out of confusion over how it all worked? We cannot know; we can only speculate. Suffice to say, the 2020 process in Washington State should be an improvement.

P.P.S. Also mark your calendar for Tuesday, August 4, the ballot turn-in deadline date for the Washington State Primary (for everything but the President) and and Tuesday, November 3, the national (and state) General Election. Then (if you live in Spokane County) go to https://www.spokanecounty.org/list.aspx?Mode=Subscribe#calendar, key in your email address and click “Elections” …and whatever else might be interesting to you. I’ve found this is a great service. Stay informed.]