Friday, August 14, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020

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In Our View: March presidential primary makes state a player

The Columbian

Thirteen isn’t usually considered a lucky number, but for Democratic voters in Washington, it brings good tidings as the state’s presidential primary approaches.

This is the first year the state’s primary will be held in March — on March 10, to be exact — instead of in May. And 13 Democrats will be on the ballot, giving Democratic voters an opportunity to help their party whittle its unwieldy field while making the state a real player in national presidential politics.

Republicans, by the way, will have just one listed option: President Donald Trump.

“Holding the presidential primary earlier in the year is a boon for Washington as it gives our voters a greater voice in the nomination process for U.S. president,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said in a statement. “By making Washington more relevant in the process, I’m optimistic we’ll see record-breaking turnout in March.”

We agree. As we’ve editorialized before, the May primary too often left Washington voters out of the loop, typically arriving after the nominations for the major parties had essentially been decided.

In a nod to the state’s more prominent role, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has already established two campaign offices in Seattle; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has hired key staff. We anticipate that some of their key competitors will soon follow suit.

The primary will also mark a positive change in how the state’s Democrats will determine who will receive support from state delegates.

For 2020, Democrats are planning to use a hybrid of results from the party caucuses and the primary election to determine who will receive our state delegates’ support. We’ve editorialized previously that true democracy would dictate that the primary — which includes more voters — is the sole determinant. But the new system is an improvement.

If you have questions about the presidential primary, we recommend you take a look at the Secretary of State’s website, which answers a number of frequently asked questions in a clear, concise way.

For instance, the presidential primary is the one time Washington voters must mark a party box and sign the party declaration on their envelope, according to the website. It adds, “Your choice of party will not affect how you may vote in future elections. … (you) may vote for any presidential candidate you wish.” (The parties can get a list of voters who declared for them, so don’t be surprised if you starting getting fundraising pitches.)

The March presidential primary is an important step forward for Washington and should help the state cement the national prominence it deserves.