A thoughtfully crafted bill that would make it possible for both of Washington State’s major political parties to use a presidential primary to allocate their national convention delegates in 2020 if they so choose has cleared the State Senate.
ESB 5273, prime sponsored by Senator Sam Hunt (D-22nd District: Olympia) easily passed by a vote of twenty-nine to eighteen this morning.
The bill would do the following:
- Move the default date of Washington’s presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March (as in current statute, the date remains administratively changeable if the parties want to move it);
- Put the major parties in charge of determining which names appear on their respective presidential primary ballots, instead of the Secretary of State;
- Require that the arrangement and form of the presidential primary ballots be established in consultation with the major parties;
- Allow a major party to request an “Uncommitted” option on their ballot.
All these changes will result in a presidential primary that complies with the national rules established by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
“A new presidential primary system would allow for greater voter participation, expanding Washingtonians’ access to democracy,” Senator Hunt said in a statement following the vote. “It will provide Washington voters with an easy and effective way to participate in the nomination of the next president.”
Prior to final passage, the Senate defeated an amendment sponsored by Republican Senator Hans Zeiger that would have ruined the bill, making the primary unusable by the Washington State Democratic Party. Zeiger’s amendment would have required the creation of a third, meaningless, “straw poll” ballot for voters not wishing to affiliate with either of the two political parties.
Although the presidential primary is several decades old, it has never been used by both major parties before. The Washington State Republicans have historically used the primary to allocate at least some of their national delegates, and in recent cycles, they’ve used it to allocate all of their national delegates. The Democratic Party has repeatedly chosen not to use the primary in favor of caucuses. That has prompted the Legislature to cancel the election… once in 2004 and again in 2012.
The Democratic Party is now considering whether to use a presidential primary to allocate its 2020 national convention delegates. If it does, it will still hold caucuses to select who goes to the convention on behalf of its candidates, as well as to adopt platforms and resolutions. However, voters who only wish to express a presidential preference would be able to do simply by participating in the primary.
The Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC), of which I am a voting member, will make a final decision in April.
Assuming ESB 5273 is adopted by the House and signed by Governor, Inslee in the next few weeks, the WSDCC will have a real choice between a primary-caucus hybrid Delegate Selection Plan and a caucus-only Delegate Selection Plan.
The WSDCC’s choice is of more interest than the Washington State Republican Party’s choice for 2020 because the Republican Party is expected to continue its fervent embrace of Donald Trump, who is a candidate for another term. The Democratic field of presidential candidates is already crowded, with no definitive front runner, and is getting more crowded every week.
The roll call on ESB 5273 was as follows:
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 29; Nays: 18; Excused: 1
Voting Yea: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Mullet, Nguyen, Palumbo, Pedersen, Randall, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman, Wilson (Claire), Zeiger
Voting Nay: Senators Bailey, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Hawkins, Holy, Honeyford, King, O’Ban, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Wagoner, Walsh, Warnick
Excused: Senator Wilson (Lynda)
NPI congratulates the Senate on the passage of this important, needed bill.
Two Republicans voted with all the Democrats in favor of the bill: Phil Fortunato (R-31st District) and Hans Zeiger (R-25th District). We thank them for their aye votes. It is disappointing that more Republicans did not vote yes.
We urge the House of Representatives to take it up and adopt it with no amendments so that it can land on Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature.