When Washington Republicans vote in the primary, it will be used toward selecting their party’s nominee. They caucused back in February, which didn’t count toward the choice.
Confused yet? Wait, there’s more.
If you want to vote in the primary, you’ll have to declare that you are either a Democrat or Republican. Then you must vote for a candidate from the party you choose, or your vote won’t be counted.
For independent-minded Washington voters, that might be a deal-killer – especially since the parties will get lists letting them know what you declared yourself to be. That’s called party-building, or another way of saying, “Wouldn’t you like to (a) donate, (b) work the phones, (c) send out campaign literature or (4) all of the above?”
Welcome to this state’s bifurcated, confusing process for nominating presidential candidates.
It didn’t have to be this way. Secretary of State Kim Wyman sensibly tried to get the parties to agree to an early March primary that both would use to allocate at least some of their delegates. That way, she reasoned, state voters would be able to weigh in before the candidate fields had been winnowed – as has happened on the Republican side.
But Democrats, who prefer the precinct caucus system, refused to go along. Instead, they’re relying 100 percent on Saturday’s caucuses to apportion delegates. Those meetings, held in places like schools and churches, tend to skew toward the hard-core party faithful, the most activist members and people who are physically able to get to a caucus location. Too bad for those unable to attend a caucus for any of a number of reasons – a disability, illness, work, transportation problem or child care responsibilities, for instance.
To their credit, state Republicans are using the – ironically – more democratic primary to allocate all their delegates. All voters have to do is fill out and return their ballot.
Saturday’s caucuses may not attract nearly as many participants as are expected to vote in the primary, but because they are hotly contested they have inspired visits to Washington by both Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, to talk about issues that matter to state voters.
We can only hope the same happens on the Republican side prior to the May 24 primary. If the GOP nomination hasn’t been decided by then – which many observers believe may indeed be the case – then voters probably can look forward to visits from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich (if he’s still in the race).
One caveat: Republicans should resist the urge to vote early. Ballots go out to all registered voters May 6 for the May 24 primary. Many voters in other states who participated in early voting ended up supporting candidates who dropped out before the actual primary date – making their votes worthless.
If you’re going to be on a party list for voting in the primary, at least you should hope your vote counts for something.