Washington’s 2016 Party Caucuses and the Presidential Primary
Clare Kelm, President of the League of Women Voters of the San Juans shares this letter about elections this year…
This is a presidential election year so the election process is different than during other years. Prior to the November 8, 2016, general election, Washington voters can participate in the party caucuses, the Presidential Preference Primary election, and the general primary election. The Presidential Preference Primary is often referred to as “the presidential primary”.
This combined system is complex and causes a lot of confusion. The League of Women Voters would like to clarify the caucuses and the presidential primary for the public.
At each of the two major parties’ national conventions, the candidate winning the most delegates from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories will be that party’s nominee for president. The national Parties establish the rules which the states must conform with as each State Party selects their delegates. The two parties do it differently…
This presidential election year the Washington State Republican Party will apportion delegates based on the results of Washington’s presidential primary on May 24, 2016. The State Democratic Party will apportion delegates based on the outcome of the precinct caucuses held on March 26, 2016.
The Washington State Republicans will send 88 delegates to their national convention in Cleveland and the Washington State Democrats will send 119 delegates to their national convention in Philadelphia. (These numbers do not include alternates.)
In conformance with the National Republican Party rules, the Republican voters will select potential delegates at the Republican caucuses held on February 20, 2016. These delegates will not be apportioned to the Presidential candidates until the Republican national convention. The apportionment will be based upon the results of the Washington presidential primary held on May 24, 2016. This allows those who cannot attend the caucuses to express how they want the delegates to vote by participating in the presidential primary on May 24.
In conformance with the National Democratic Party rules, the Democratic voters will select and apportion delegates who are pledged to specific Presidential candidates during the Democratic caucuses held on March 26, 2016.
What happens at a caucus?
At caucuses people gather to openly discuss the topics on the caucus agenda and make delegate selections according to the party rules. During the discussions, people can try to convince others to vote a particular way. The discussions can be substantial and the votes can be taken multiple times.
Who can attend?
Both the Republican and Democratic precinct caucuses are open to any person registered to vote in Washington. Those participating will sign a promise that they won’t participate in another party’s presidential selection process.
It’s important to point out that a person in Washington does not register to vote as a Democrat or a Republican. They simply register to vote. People who are willing to publicly declare themselves a Republican may participate in the Republican caucuses and those who are willing to publicly declare themselves a Democrat may participate in the Democratic caucuses. They may also vote in the presidential primary on May 24, 2016, but they again must declare their party preference. Declaring a party is not required in the general primary elections held on August 2, 2016.
Those who are willing to publicly declare themselves either a Democrat or Republican (one or the other) may vote in the May 24 Presidential primary. The information about which party’s ballot a voter chooses is public information and will be available from the Secretary of State up to 22 months following the Presidential primary.
To see a visual depiction of both the Republican and Democratic caucus process and to find your precinct and the caucus locations go to http://www.lwv-kitsap.org/2016-Elections.html . For more information you can also go to the Washington State Republican Party website at http://www.wsrp.org/, the Washington State Democratic Party website at http://www.wa-democrats.org/, and the Washington Secretary of State’s website http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/2016-Presidential-Primary.aspx .
Democracy, as some say, is not a spectator sport. Our democracy is always stronger when more people participate. Use your voice and vote! The League of Women Voters will be active this spring and fall providing voter registration opportunities and candidate forums across the state.