Ridiculous Washington State Primary and Causus system

Politics by on February 1, 2008 at 5:54 pm

As a recent WA resident, this will be my first primary. As a rational voter, I had originally planned to skip the primary since the WA primaries are held after super-tuesday and I largely expected the nominations to be clear at that point.

That doesn’t look like it will happen. I now expect Obama and Clinton to be still going head-to-head, as I expect McCain and Romney to still be duking it out (although this race may be decided by the time it gets to WA).

But then I learned how the WA state system works. Here is out it works:

  • Primary: Primary ballots are mailed to every WA voter. A voter can decide to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary, but can’t vote in both (it is one ballot). Primaries are held on Feb 19.
  • Caucus: The Republicans and Democrats also hold Caucuses. These are on Feb 9.

So WA holds both Primaries and Caucuses?

Yes. Here is how the delegates are determined:

  • Democrats: 0 delegates are determined via the primary. So, voting for a democrat in the primary is a wasted vote. 100% of the delegates are determined by the Caucus.
  • Republicans: 51% are determined by the primary vote. 49% are determined by the Caucus. You can vote in both the primary and caucus (get your vote double counted!)

Since the caucuses are held on the same day, you can only physically vote for one party. The primary ballot also prevents you from voting for both parties.

However, it is trivially easy to vote in the Democratic caucus and then vote in the Republican primary. Or to vote twice in the Republican primary & caucus.

Fortunately, our state lawmakers are aware of this risk and developed a foolproof way to prevent you from impacting the nominations in both parties: ‘the checkbox’. On the primary ballot, you have to check a box that says you will only participate in one party’s nominating process:


I’m sure that the parties also share their voter registries with each other to make sure that no one is violating their checkbox oath.

Despite the intimidating checkbox, it seems like the rational way for an independent to vote in this election is to either vote republican twice, or once democratic (caucus) and once republican (primary). This process is particularly appealing as an independent that wants more centrist candidates.

Of course, I’ll be out of town for the Caucuses so it looks like if I want to impact the election I’ll need to vote Republican in the primary.


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