NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Washington State House sends bill to reform presidential primary to Governor Jay Inslee

Leg­is­la­tion that would make Wash­ing­ton’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry usable by both major polit­i­cal par­ties for the first time in state his­to­ry cleared the Leg­is­la­ture today with an almost par­ty-line vote in the House of Representatives.

Engrossed Sen­ate Bill 5273, spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt, passed with a vote of fifty-four to forty-two, with two excused. The bill moves the the default date of the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry from the fourth Tues­day in May to the sec­ond Tues­day in March and puts the polit­i­cal par­ties in charge of draw­ing up the list of can­di­dates that will appear on their respec­tive bal­lots (instead of the Sec­re­tary of State).

The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call
ESB 5273
Pres­i­den­tial primary
Final Passage

Yeas: 54; Nays: 42; Excused: 2

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Apple­ton, Bergquist, Callan, Chap­man, Cody, Davis, Doglio, Dolan, Enten­man, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Good­man, Gregerson, Hansen, Hud­gins, Jink­ins, Kil­duff, Kir­by, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mead, Mor­gan, Mor­ris, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Ramos, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Ryu, San­tos, Sells, Senn, Shew­make, Slat­ter, Springer, Stan­ford, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Tar­leton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Chopp

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Barkis, Blake, Boehnke, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Cor­ry, DeBolt, Dent, Dufault, Dye, Eslick, Gildon, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Klip­pert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Smith, Steele, Stokes­bary, Suther­land, Van Wer­ven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybar­ra, Young

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Reeves, Wylie

Bri­an Blake was the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to vote against the bill. No Repub­li­cans vot­ed for it, per­haps desir­ing to show sol­i­dar­i­ty with Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman, who want­ed a bill that would have man­dat­ed the inclu­sion of a mean­ing­less “straw poll” bal­lot” — a deal­break­er for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

In past pres­i­den­tial cycles, Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats have exclu­sive­ly used cau­cus­es to allo­cate and select their nation­al con­ven­tion delegates.

The par­ty is now con­sid­er­ing incor­po­rat­ing a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry into its Del­e­gate Selec­tion and Affir­ma­tive Action Plan (DSAAP) for the first time ever.

If the par­ty’s State Cen­tral Com­mit­tee (WSDCC) choos­es a pri­ma­ry-cau­cus hybrid approach instead of an a par­ty-run cau­cus only approach, then cau­cus­es would be retained for del­e­gate selec­tion pur­pos­es, but the pri­ma­ry would be used to allo­cate del­e­gates to each can­di­date. A draft 2020 DSAAP is due to be pub­lished this week by the state par­ty, kick­ing off a thir­ty day pub­lic com­ment period.

In addi­tion to mov­ing up the default date and remov­ing the Sec­re­tary of State’s role in decid­ing which can­di­dates appear, ESB 5273 allows the par­ties to request the inclu­sion of an “Uncom­mit­ted” option on their bal­lots if they so desire.

(Under Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty rules, “Uncom­mit­ted” is a legit­i­mate pres­i­den­tial pref­er­ence, so the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty would like­ly take advan­tage of this pro­vi­sion if it choos­es a pri­ma­ry as its method of allo­ca­tion for 2020.)

Repub­li­cans have used the pri­ma­ry (when held) to allo­cate some of their del­e­gates. In 2016, they allo­cat­ed their entire del­e­ga­tion based on the pri­ma­ry results.

Sup­port­ers of ESB 5273 believe an ear­li­er date will ulti­mate­ly give Wash­ing­ton more influ­ence over who is nom­i­nat­ed… and give peo­ple a rea­son to turn out.

“A new pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry sys­tem would allow for greater vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion, expand­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ access to democ­ra­cy,” said Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt (D‑22nd Dis­trict), the bill’s prime spon­sor. “It will pro­vide Wash­ing­ton vot­ers with an easy and effec­tive way to par­tic­i­pate in the nom­i­na­tion of the next President.”

Hunt argues that a pri­ma­ry would be more inclu­sive, as cau­cus­es are often inac­ces­si­ble to those who work on Sat­ur­days or can­not find child­care, as well as mil­i­tary per­son­nel serv­ing over­seas and peo­ple work­ing or trav­el­ing abroad.

ESB 5273 pre­vi­ous­ly passed out of the Sen­ate with bipar­ti­san sup­port and is sup­port­ed by both of the state’s major polit­i­cal parties.

“This is a good move for the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State,” said Repub­li­can Chair Caleb Heim­lich, “to move our pri­ma­ry up so that our state is actu­al­ly relevant.”

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty made adop­tion of a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry reform bill that respects its First Amend­ment right of free assem­bly one of its leg­isla­tive action pri­or­i­ties for 2019 last Sep­tem­ber at its meet­ing in Spokane.

ESB 5273 now goes to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, who last Fri­day announced his can­di­da­cy for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion for Pres­i­dent. If signed into law, Wash­ing­ton will join Cal­i­for­nia, Texas, Mass­a­chu­setts, Alaba­ma and sev­en oth­er states hold­ing nom­i­nat­ing events in the first weeks of March.

The state retains the flex­i­bil­i­ty to change the pri­ma­ry date if agreed upon by a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion includ­ing the lead­ers of the major par­ties, the state’s leg­isla­tive lead­ers, and the Sec­re­tary of State, cur­rent­ly Kim Wyman.

Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats will make a final deci­sion on whether to uti­lize a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry for 2020 on April 7th when the WSDCC (which NPI’s Andrew Vil­leneuve is a mem­ber of) gath­ers in Pas­co for its spring meeting.

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  1. Sweet! This sounds like a very promis­ing development.

    # by Howard Trigg :: March 5th, 2019 at 9:10 AM
  2. Col­umn in Wednes­day Seat­tle Times by Dan­ny West­neat takes on the bill for allow­ing the par­ties to obtain mail­ing lists from the primary.

    # by Mike Barer :: March 6th, 2019 at 7:47 AM
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