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What voters need to know about Washington’s primary election on March 12

Presidential primary allows Washingtonians to influence party nominees for November election

General election ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.
Primary presidential election ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

Voters will have an opportunity on Tuesday, March 12 to influence Democratic or Republican presidential nominees ahead of this fall’s presidential election. 

Ninety-two Democratic delegates are up for grabs in Washington’s primary, and Democratic candidates will receive a proportional share as long as they receive at least 15% of the vote. Forty-three delegates are up for grabs on the Republican side; Republican candidates need to win at least 20% of the vote to win a delegate, and any candidate that wins more than 50% of the primary wins them all. 

Unlike most Washington elections, the presidential primary ballot next Tuesday requires voters to select a political party and then vote for one candidate in that party.

The choice of party will not impact how someone can vote in future elections, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s website. While a voter’s selection of party (but not who they voted for) will at first be public record, it will be removed from their record 60 days after the certification of the presidential primary.

On the March 12 ballot, voters who select the Democratic party have four choices: Incumbent president Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Dean Phillips, a three-term Democratic congressman from Minnesota; Marianne Williamson, an author and politician who also ran in 2020; and “uncommitted delegates.” 

“Uncommitted delegates” was an option requested by the Democratic Party, according to the Washington Secretary of State. A vote for “uncommitted delegates” would allow those delegates that represent Washington to decide during their national convention, according to the secretary of state

Voters who select the Republican Party will have five options: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and former President Donald J. Trump. 

Christie, DeSantis, Haley and Ramaswamy have all suspended their campaigns, but made the decision after the submission deadline so their names will still show up on the ballot. 

This presidential primary will be just the second in which all votes cast contribute to awarding candidates delegates. Washington has held a presidential primary since 1992, but Democrats chose their candidate through caucuses until 2020 and Republicans chose their candidate through both the primary and caucuses until 2016, according to a Seattle Times article. In 2016, Republicans switched to awarding delegates just through the primary, and Democrats made the switch in 2020.

Voters must return their ballots to ballot drop locations by 8 p.m. March 12. Voters can also mail-in their ballots, but they must be postmarked by March 12 to count. 

“We really highly recommend voters to use an official ballot drop box to ensure their ballot is returned on time,” said Amy Grasher, Whatcom County’s chief deputy auditor.

The Whatcom County Election Division has received 31,700 ballots as of Tuesday, March, 5, Grasher said.

Charlotte Alden is CDN’s general assignment/enterprise reporter; reach her at; 360-922-3090 ext. 123.

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