If the state of Washington holds a presidential primary in 2016 – and that’s not a foregone conclusion, by any stretch – it would cost $11.5 million.
For that cost, Secretary of State Kim Wyman rightly reasons, the primary should mean something: It should be the basis for how the major parties apportion at least some of their national convention delegates.
The 2016 election – in which neither major party will have an incumbent seeking re-election – is the time to have a meaningful primary that would encourage candidates to campaign here on issues of importance to Washington voters.
If proposed legislation (Senate Bill 5978) passes to fund the primary, and the parties agree to use the results to help select delegates, voters would have to pick a party and select a favorite from that party’s list of candidates.
The list of those voters’ partisan preference would be public – which appeals to the parties for their campaign and fund-raising purposes.
If the parties don’t agree, then voters would receive a ballot with all candidates listed. They would not have to cite a party preference.
Wyman is halfway there; state Republicans already apportion roughly half of their delegates based on the results of the presidential primary in years when it is held (the other half on caucus results). The primary was canceled in 2012 for budgetary reasons and the fact that the nominees were foregone conclusions by the time this state’s primary date finally rolled around.
Wyman’s legislation would also address that problem by holding the primary in early March. Ballots would go out before “Super Tuesday,” which in past elections has been a major factor in determining the final nominees.
The holdup is state Democrats, who ignore primary results in apportioning delegates. Instead, they rely on results from precinct caucuses at which people gather, discuss the candidates and select delegates based on the attendees’ votes.
Caucuses have a very “town hall” communitarian feel, to be sure. But they’re also exclusionary. Many interested voters are unable to participate, including deployed military, people who have to work that day, people with disabilities that preclude them from attending and others.
In 2012, only 3 percent of registered voters attended a caucus meeting compared to 42 percent who voted in the primary. But the parties like the caucuses because they attract politically interested people who might become campaign workers, precinct officers or even candidates.
Wyman’s right: If the state is going to have a presidential primary, it should be more than a taxpayer-funded straw poll that helps the parties with their campaign efforts. Voters should know that their participation will help select the next president