Washington State Primary Elections Explained
Educate. Advocate. Mitigate. Activate!
With the WA State Presidential Primary Election coming up March 12, 2024, many are asking questions about the process.
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The presidential primary election is part of a nomination process to help the major political parties choose their presidential nominees. Presidential nominees don’t appear in the regular primary election in August. Instead, they advance directly to the November general election after the party’s National Convention delegates have selected their presidential nominee.
Washington State has “Open” presidential primaries. There is no party registration, but to vote the voter is required to affiliate with a party via a declaration (check box on the outside of the envelope sleeve) and then only vote for the candidate of that party. This only happens once every four years and is the only WA State election conducted this way.
The check box affiliation has no bearing on how a voter may vote in the general election or any other elections, including future presidential primaries.
For all other primaries, Washington uses a “Top Two Jungle Primary” system that gives voters a choice among all candidates running for each office. The August primary includes local, state, and federal races other than the president. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary election (regardless of party affiliation) qualify for the general election.
Key 2024 WA State Presidential Primary Dates:
January 27 – Military and overseas (UOCAVA) ballot and Voters’ Pamphlets mailed.
February 14 thru 23 –Voters’ Pamphlets mailed to every household.
February 23 – Start of 18-day voting period (through Election Day). Ballots mailed to all registered voters. Voters must mark one party box and sign the declaration on the outside of the return envelope.
March 4 – Deadline for online and by mail registration and address updates. Mailed registrations must be received, not postmarked by this date.
March 12 – Presidential Primary.
Last day to register or update in-person at a county elections office.
Mailed ballots must have a March 12 postmark to count.
Ballot boxes and voting centers close at 8:00 p.m.
After 8:00 p.m., counties begin transmission of results to the SoS.
March 29 – Last day for the SoS to certify presidential primary results.
Per RCW 29A.08.170: 17-year-olds can vote in the March presidential primary election if they will be 18 by the corresponding November general election.
Laws governing primary elections vary from state to state and can even vary within states. This variation has created several different types of primary elections. E.g., only registered party members are allowed to vote in closed primaries, while registered party members and unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote in semi-closed primaries.
WHY IS A PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTION OFTENTIMES CALLED A PRESIDENTIAL “PREFERENCE” PRIMARY?
Simply because the voter is NOT electing a candidate for president; rather it is a chance for a voter to participate in the “nomination process” for the office of U.S. President. Voters help the major political parties choose presidential nominees.
WHY DOES WA STATE HAVE A PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY?
After statehood in 1889 WA State candidates were chosen by petition and at nominating conventions.
In 1907 a primary system for partisan candidates was created by the legislature, requiring political parties to choose their nominees through a public primary - Separate ballots for party and voters may only cast ballots in one party’s primary.
In 1935 WA State established the first “Blanket Primary” in the United States. Voters could vote for their choice at any primary for any candidate for each office, regardless of political affiliation and without a declaration of political adherence. Citizens may vote for a candidate of one party for one office, and then vote for a candidate of another party for the next office, allowing cross-over voting.
April 24, 1988, The Washington Presidential Preference Primaries Act, Initiative 99 (Shall a state presidential preference primary election determine each presidential candidate's percentage of delegates to major party national conventions?) was filed as an Initiative to the Legislature - The legislature passed the act March 31, 1989. Before this, the WA State GOP used the caucus and convention system to pick their presidential delegates.
1992 WAS THE FIRST WA STATE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY. Ballots used by absentee voters had a checkbox on the inside of the ballot signature envelope that indicated party affiliation. Ballots also could be different colors to indicate a party. In-person poll site voters had to indicate a party choice when they signed the poll book list as well as use a ballot of the designated color.
During the 1990’s some presidential preference primaries included other measure issues on the ballot in addition to presidential candidates.
June 26, 2000 SCOTUS ruled California’s “Blanket Primary” unconstitutional as violating the political parties’ freedom of association in California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567 (2000). Following the SCOTUS case, the constitutionality of WA’s blanket primary is challenged by the state Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties in U.S. District Court. However, attorneys for the state and the political parties agree to have the 2000 primary unchanged.
In 2004 Initiative 872 passed allowing primary voters to choose from a slate of candidates without regard to the political affiliation of those running. The top two vote-getters, regardless of the party to which they belong, run in the general election. The legislature thereafter changed the law accordingly.
AGAINST MOST REPUBLICANS WISHES: In 2011 the privacy flap on the signature envelope was no longer used and required voter info on the outside of the ballot return envelope, completely open to the public.
Again in 2012, WA State did not hold a preference primary, instead, it was a statewide caucus where over 50,000 GOP voters attended.
IN 2016 and 2020 the WA State GOP went back to a Presidential Primary.
In 2019 the legislature passed SB 5273 An act relating to the presidential primary - which kept party affiliation on the outside of the voter’s envelope and also moved up the presidential primary to the second Tuesday in March.
REPUBLICANS OPPOSED 5273! It was referred to the Senate Rules Committee Jan. 24, 2019 where an amendment was offered by Sen. Hans Zeiger (R) Jan 30, 2019, that would allow presidential primary voters to participate while choosing NOT to declare a party affiliation.
The amendment failed 18 to 29 in the Senate on January 30, 2019, and 5273 passed the Senate on January 30, 2019 - Yeas 29 Nays 18.
In the State House an amendment offered by Rep. Drew MacEwen (R) March 4, 2019, wanting to remove all changes in the underlying bill, except for the change in the date of the presidential primary failed 40 to 56 in the House.
An amendment offered by Rep. Jim Walsh (R) failed by voice vote March 4, 2019 THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED voters who declare an intent NOT to affiliate with a party and voters who do NOT subscribe to a party declaration to vote for a candidate from a list of all candidates of any political party.
ESB 5273 passed the House March 4, 2019, Yeas 54 Nays 42, and the final bill was signed into law March 14, 2019.
Feb 20, 2023, WAC 434-219-155 clarified the law saying the local county elections officials could design a ballot that fit the ballot processing equipment requirements.
WHEN 5273 WENT INTO EFFECT IT TRIGGERED AN RNC RULE
The RNC rules stipulate that if a state holds its presidential preference primary or statewide presidential caucus before March 15th, the state delegate allocation must be a form of “Proportional” representation. Candidates need to reach a minimum threshold of at least 20% of the vote for a candidate to qualify for any delegates. With this method, some states allocate delegates using a mix of proportional and winner-take-all methods. A common combination is majority-take-all, in which statewide delegates are awarded proportionally, though one candidate can win them all if they get more than 50% of the vote (California is allocating delegates this way in 2024).
WHAT IS A DELEGATE? In the context of presidential elections, delegates are elected individuals who represent their state or community at their party’s presidential nominating convention. Delegates choose a presidential candidate to represent the national party in the November general election. They also approve the party’s platform and adopt rules governing the party. Delegates oftentimes are activists, insiders and/or supporters of a particular presidential candidate.
In 2024 since the presidential primary will be held March 12, 40 of WA State’s 43 delegates will be allocated based on the voting in 10 WA State Congressional districts (3 delegates per district= 30 delegates) and 10 “At Large” delegates based on the entire state’s vote, plus 3 “Automatic” delegates; the WAGOP State Chair, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman.
The 2024 Republican presidential nominee will be selected by delegates to the Republican National Convention, which will be held July 15-18, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The national nominating convention is the formal process in which the party officially selects its nominee. Delegates are individuals chosen to represent their state or territory at the convention.
In 2024, there are a total of 2,429 delegates: 2,325 pledged delegates and 104 unpledged delegates (not bound by the results of state primaries or caucuses). They include: Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Virginia, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, America Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands all have at least some of their delegates as “Unpledged.”
To win the Republican nomination, a presidential candidate must receive support from a majority of delegates (50 % + 1)—1,215 delegates.
HOW DO REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES GET ON THE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY BALLOT?
Per WA state law, the major state political parties decide. The chair of each state party must submit the names of candidates to the Secretary of State 63 days before the presidential primary.
There are 39 counties in WA State. Every two years each of the county GOP precinct committee officers (PCOs) votes for a county Chairman, Committeeman, and Committeewoman. The 3 serve on the Washington State Republican Party (WAGOP) State Committee and lead the respective county party at the state level.
39 X 3 = 117 members of the WAGOP State Committee.
For a Presidential GOP candidate to be considered, the candidate must get at least 12 of the 117 members of the WAGOP State Committee support, each of whom sign a declaration. Additionally, the campaign of the Presidential candidate must pay a $20,000 fee to the WAGOP.
In 2024, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie all qualified and will appear on the WA State GOP ballot. Several other presidential candidates applied but did not qualify because they could not garner 12 State Committee members’ support.
OF NOTE: in 2019 when the WA State legislature passed 5273, it read: Ballots for Presidential Preference Primary - If requested by a party chair 63 days before the election, the presidential primary ballot must include a place for voters to indicate a preference for having delegates to that party's convention remain uncommitted. The arrangement and form of presidential ballots must be established by rule in consultation with major political parties.
WHY DO THE POLITICAL PARTIES GET TO DECIDE?
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows for the freedom of association. Individuals are guaranteed the right to organize themselves into political parties, parties that are “self-governed” and not subject to state interference and influence as to how presidential candidates are chosen.
In the 1986 case Tashjian v. Republican Party, the U.S. Supreme Court held that political parties had the ultimate say in whether other registered voters could participate in their primaries, not state legislatures passing laws. The SCOTUS majority said, “We conclude that § 9-431 impermissibly burdens the rights of the Party and its members protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
ELECTION INTERFERENCE: The left’s movement to manipulate the primaries is funded by NGOs and globalists involved in immigration, gender equity, etc. By design, there is a massive movement of Democrat crossover voting and voters changing to an “undeclared” status to manipulate elections!
LET’S BE CLEAR: The open primary vote is a separate process under state law that fosters election manipulation and election interference.
IN FACT: The one county out of 99 Counties that President Trump lost in Iowa on Caucus night ran out of party-switch forms on Caucus night. Just in one caucus location, about 75 people were new registrations or switched their registration from Democrats to Republicans. Haley won the county by 1 vote!
Also, 70% of Haley voters in the 2024 NH primary were not registered Republicans, and 133,000 + votes that Haley got in that primary were from people who were NOT members of the Republican party.
WHY IS A CAUCUS PREFERRED OVER A PRIMARY?
Recently the Nevada Republican Party voted to approve rules for a 2024 party-run Presidential caucus, which will take place Feb 8, 2024, two days after the state-run primary. The Caucus was traditional in the state before the Democratic-led legislature passed a 2021 law switching the election from a caucus to a primary.
Reasons Include: Transparency, voter ID, precinct-based voting, election day as opposed to election month, paper ballots instead of machines, preventing election tampering (like what we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire), and a system so GOP “highly informed” voters choose GOP candidates, not Democrats, low and non-informed voters using mail-in voting (which is much more susceptible for fraud).
The reason the establishment wants an open primary (benefiting Nikki Haley) is that it allows the left to vote and try and weaken a popular conservative candidate, in this case, President Trump.
The Nevada GOP says presidential candidates who participate in the primary can't participate in the caucus because the state-run primary is not approved by the Republican Party. President Trump committed to participating in the caucus and not the primary. Nikki Haley chose to NOT be part of the caucus and will only participate in the primary.
That means Trump is assured to win all of Nevada's 26 delegates on Feb. 8. Most obviously Nikki knows this, she knows she can’t win otherwise she would at least try to garner some of the much-needed delegates.
The Nevada GOP filed a lawsuit in May against the state of Nevada to discard the primary. The lawsuit, filed by RNC Committeewoman Sigal Chattah, claims the 2021 law mandating a presidential primary obstructs the rights given under the First and 14th Amendments.
Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said a statewide primary is estimated to cost Nevada taxpayers up to $5 million, noting Gov. Joe Lombardo pushed to have that money put into school systems or used to assist older Nevadans who are struggling with high living expenses due to inflation.
“We sued the state to say, 'Listen, you're going to waste $5 million on holding a primary. In holding that primary, we're not going to select our nominee. Our nominee is going to come out of a caucus.”
Besides Nevada’s long history of operating by a caucus, McDonald also says “there is a serious problem with mail-in ballots and serious questions being raised about accountability. Thousands of ballots are just stuffed in trash cans after they go to an apartment complex or floating around the streets mailing to different addresses where people don't live anymore, some ballots are voted out of storage units and vacant lots. It became a concern because the Democrats are telling us how we're going to select our presidential nominee, on top of that, they're going to tell us how we're going to do it.
For similar reasons the Tennessee Republican Party just added a new bylaw which prohibits anyone who voted recently in a non-GOP primary from running for office as a Republican candidate, in order to keep Democrats pretending to be Republicans from running.
Dems are doing everything in their power to stop President Trump, he is easily leading Biden in the polls, and they do not believe they can beat Trump in the 2024 election.
Additionally, there have been challenges under the 14th Amendment to Donald Trump’s ballot eligibility in at least 35 states including Washington. Only in Colorado have courts ordered Trump removed from the ballot, although that decision is on hold, pending a appeal to SCOTUS being heard next week.
Jan 18 attorney Joel Ard representing the WAGOP won a successful court challenge and argued to a Thurston County (Left Inslee Appointed) judge that the attempt to remove Trump from the ballot was both procedurally and legally faulty, some seasons include:
Neither Trump’s campaign nor the state Republican Party was ever served a complaint.
Presidential primaries are governed by a different section of state code than other elections and candidates cannot be removed in the same way. Political parties, not the state, are responsible for who appears on primary ballots.
Ard said. “These issues have cropped up a lot. People alleged that Barack Obama was ineligible because he was born in Kenya, that’s not a basis for removing those names from the primary ballot.”
OF NOTE: Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which contains the insurrection clause, has only rarely been used since it was ratified after the Civil War and only applies to holding office, not running for office, and does not give states and DC the ability to veto national presidential candidates in their separate jurisdictions.
DRUMMED UP FALSE CHARGES
Expect Trump to be the Republican Nominee for President. Trump has only been indicted and charged. He is not guilty and has NOT been convicted of anything.
A Capitol breach constitutes engaging in an “insurrection” - Trump was the Duly Elected President on Jan 6, 2021- Pretty hard to overthrow yourself when at the time Trump himself was part of the government. - Biden took office Jan 20.
It is very clear Art 14 Section 3 can’t be applied to Trump. The issue soon will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear an appeal of the Colorado case Feb. 8. Who decides our country’s next president needs to remain where it belongs, WITH THE PEOPLE!
Bill Bruch is the WA State GOP Election Integrity Chairman, WSRP Executive Board Member, 4-Term Skagit County GOP Chairman, Citizen Journalist, Blogger, Business Owner, “2021 Citizen Activist of the Year” award by the Olympic Conference, 2020 WA State House Representative Candidate, Former Council Member, and WA State 2016 RNC National Convention Delegate.
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