The voters’ pamphlet for the state’s May 24 presidential primary has arrived in registered voters’ homes, and the ballots go out in a few days.
Not registered to vote? There’s still time, but you have to show up in person at the county auditor’s office no later than May 16.
Whether you plan to participate probably hinges on where you fall on the political spectrum.
For Republicans, the primary is pressingly vital and likely will inspire a healthy turnout. That’s because the state party will use the results to allocate 100 percent of Republican convention delegates.
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are taking it seriously, too; their campaigns have announced the candidates will visit Washington in early May in search of primary votes.
Washington’s primary may well figure into efforts by many Republicans to prevent Trump from reaching the “magic number” of 1,237 delegates needed to sew up the nomination. That could force a contested convention, in which more than half of the delegates would be free to change their vote on the second ballot. About 80 percent would be unbound in the event of a third ballot.
For Democrats, there’s less impetus to fill out that primary ballot. For them, the primary is only a beauty contest – and one that won’t crown anyone because the winner’s already been anointed.
The state party will ignore the primary results, relying solely on the results of the March 26 precinct caucuses, where Bernie Sanders won 72.7 percent of the delegates to Hillary Clinton’s 27.1 percent. A recent Elway Poll, however, shows Clinton running 3 points ahead of Sanders among registered voters.
Why the discrepancy? Only 6 percent of the state’s registered voters attended the precinct caucuses, and it likely was skewed toward the most fervent participants. That’s why Republicans have moved away from the caucus system in this state. They remember all too well how their caucuses were dominated – some say “hijacked” – by Pat Robertson supporters in 1988, the year George H.W. Bush won the nomination.
The next step in the Democrats’ process – the legislative district caucuses held April 17 – were numbingly chaotic, lasting well into the night at many locations. Even some Democratic Party officials were grumbling afterwards that the primary would be a better way to decide the nominee.
“This was not the voice of the people,” Beckie Summers, chairwoman of the 29th District Democrats, told The News Tribune’s Melissa Santos. “To really get the voice of the people, you need a vote of the people – and yeah, we should have a primary.”
Independent voters are the ones who are really left out of the primary process. Proudly eschewing any party labels, they’ll have to hold their noses and declare themselves either Democrats or Republicans in order to vote in the primary – and then vote for the candidate of the party they select. Otherwise their vote will not count.
Their tax dollars, however, help pay for the $11 million cost of the primary. They can be excused for thinking that’s taxation without representation.
The fact that the primary has no bearing on selection of the Democratic nominee might inspire some mischief-making by some voters. (See this letter to the editor.) Think Trump would be easier to beat in the general election? Then declare yourself a Republican for the day and vote for him in the primary, the sentiment goes.
We hope that doesn’t happen, and that voters take their declaration and vote seriously.
And in 2020, Democrats, please reconsider relying on those caucuses. Instead of turning people off to the process, open it up to all voters.