Secretary of State Kim Wyman lost her fight a week ago to move the state’s largely symbolic presidential primary to March 8 next year.
Unfortunately, none of the four Democrats on a bipartisan panel agreed to vote with Wyman and four Republicans. So Wyman fell one vote shy of the six-vote supermajority needed to move to the earlier, more meaningful date.
We agreed with Wyman that an early March primary – though not binding on the political parties’ choices – would help educate the public about the candidates from each major party. It might even draw candidates to show up and campaign rather than just raise money in our state.
Forget that now. The primary election will take place on May 24, 2016, unless state legislators intervene in January to change the date or cancel the election and save 11 million bucks. The May primary date was set by statute under a 1989 citizen initiative.
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Wyman’s proposal this year to move to an earlier date died in the divided Legislature.
Holding the vote in May is probably too late to be relevant. It’s two months after Washington Democrats hold their March 26 caucuses to select county and state convention delegates, and three-fourths of the U.S. population will have weighed in about the candidates on both sides by then.
In a change of heart, Wyman wants to hold it anyway.
We favor canceling it.
But we are disappointed in our state’s Democrats. Next year, they will have already held precinct caucuses and won’t use any of the primary vote results to pick or allocate delegates for their party’s nominees for president.
Precinct caucuses are the public meetings each party uses to gather voters at a neighborhood level; participants select and allocate delegates in support of specific candidates, and the chosen delegates move on to county and state conventions.
Democratic state chairman Jaxon Ravens has noted his party is bound by national rules and splitting the delegate selection – partly by caucus and partly by ballot – would require national party approval, which is difficult to obtain. His party’s executive committee in April rejected the idea of even asking for permission in this election cycle.
Republicans, on the other hand, have considered using the popular vote to select potentially half of their delegates. The precise amount hasn’t been decided, according to state party chairwoman Susan Hutchison.
Hutchison and the GOP have rubbed Democrats’ nose in the contrast, pointing out that Republicans – who usually are trying to limit voter participation in other states – are the party in this case that wants to let more people participate in what admittedly is more of a poll than an election.
But on this one, the Republicans have it right.
We again urge Democrats to rethink their strategy in the future. In the interest of spurring broader public participation in the early debate, Washington should join those other states that have elected to go with an early and inclusive primary.
Editor’s note: This has been revised to clarify that the GOP has only considered using the presidential primary to allocate a portion of delegates.