Updated Mar 6, 2024 - Politics

Voting in Washington's presidential primary: What to know

Illustration of two checkboxes over a divided blue and red background, with a checkmark moving back and forth between them.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Voting begins this week in Washington's March 12 presidential primary, which will help decide each party's nominee for president.

Why it matters: This is a chance for Washington voters to influence the national race — although with so few candidates still running, the impact may be somewhat blunted.

What's happening: By Friday, registered voters in Washington will be automatically mailed a combined Republican and Democratic primary ballot, with each party's candidates printed on opposite sides of the ballot.

  • Voters can select only one candidate and fill out only one party's side, or else their vote won't count, per the Washington secretary of state's office.

Declaring a party

To have your vote counted, you also have to check a box on your return envelope saying you identify as either a Republican or a Democrat.

  • Whatever party declaration you choose needs to match the party ballot you filled out.
  • This is a change from other Washington state elections, when voters aren't asked to declare a party.

What they're saying: "Know that it's not binding and it doesn't paint you as a Republican or Democrat for the rest of your life," Jim Walsh, chair of the state Republican Party, told Axios this week.

  • Regardless of what voters declare, they can vote for any candidates they like in the upcoming August primary and November general elections.

Yes, but: Which party primary you voted in becomes public record and can be requested by anyone for 60 days.

  • Each major political party gets a list of who took part in their primary.

How the results are used

The primary will decide how Washington's delegates are allocated to candidates at the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions, when each party formally picks its presidential nominee.

By the numbers: Washington has 92 Democratic delegates up for grabs based on the primary results. Candidates will win a proportional share of those delegates if they capture at least 15% of the March 12 primary vote.

  • Republicans must capture at least 20% of the vote to win any of Washington's 43 GOP delegates. Any GOP candidate who wins more than 50% of the primary vote will claim them all.

Who's on the ballot

Several candidates on the ballot have already dropped out of the presidential race.

State of play: The Democratic ballot includes President Joe Biden, Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips.

The Republican ballot features Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie.

  • All except Trump and Haley had already suspended their campaigns before ballots were mailed.
  • Haley later suspended her campaign March 6, leaving Trump as the only Republican standing.

Between the lines: You can still vote for candidates who are no longer running.

  • But Washington State Democrats chair Shasti Conrad told Axios the party is encouraging people to pay attention to how races develop to "make sure their vote is going to a candidate who can actually win delegates."

Of note: The state voter guide notes whether a candidate has withdrawn from the race.

  • There's also an "uncommitted" option on the Democratic ballot, which lets people vote in the Democratic primary without picking a preferred candidate.

What's next: Ballots must be postmarked by March 12 or returned to an official ballot drop box by 8pm that day.

Go deeper: 3 things to watch in Washington's 2024 presidential primary


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