State Democrats ask voters to choose: Primary or caucus?
Washington State’s primary could already be in for a major shakeup in 2020 if legislation to move the primary date up to March is signed into law. One party could see an even bigger shakeup soon, though, marked by the state’s Democratic Party asking voters whether they would prefer a simple primary vote rather than a caucus.
Washington Democrats have used the caucus process to pick their presidential candidates for awhile now, but that could soon change. The party is asking voters if they’d rather mail in the selection for their preferred candidate, rather than caucusing, a method that has proved difficult to manage in terms of turnout.
According to data collected by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the 2016 election saw markedly lower turnouts for states that caucused versus states that held a simple primary vote. More specifically, the top 20 states with the best voter turnout were all primary states.
Turnout for Washington was relatively low for its own 2016 caucus as well, with the state bringing in just 34.78 percent of registered voters. The general election saw a much higher 78 percent turnout.
The best turnout in 2016 was a primary state (New Hampshire), that managed to net over half of its eligible voters.
The difficulties in caucus turnout are multifaceted. The process requires voters to set aside time on a weekend to go to a physical location and actively discuss candidates, excluding virtually any profession that has its employees working on Saturdays and Sundays.
Combine that with the fact that Washington voters are well-accustomed to the mail-in methods of its general election, and the caucus has been a tough sell for the state in recent years.
After hearing from voters, the full body of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee will convene on April 7 to make a final decision.
If the primary option ends up being chosen, caucuses will still be held at the legislative district level to actually select the delegates who will represent voters at the state and national conventions. The key difference will be that a mail-in ballot would determine the candidate those delegates are assigned to.
Voting is open right now — Democrats can submit their preference here.