For the first time in its history, the Washington State Democratic Party has decided to use a presidential primary to allocate the delegates it sends to the quadrennial Democratic National Convention, where the party’s candidates for President and Vice President of the United States are formally nominated.
The party’s governing Central Committee voted overwhelmingly today at a meeting in Pasco to adopt a Delegate Selection Plan that utilizes the state-run primary scheduled to be held on March 10th, 2020, to be followed by caucuses and conventions at four levels for the purposes of delegate selection and partybuilding, including the adoption of platform and resolutions.
(As a veteran member of the WSDCC, representing the 45th District, I participated in the vote, and proudly supported the presidential primary option.)
While Washington has for decades had a law providing for a presidential primary to be held every four years, the Washington State Democratic Party has never used the results of that primary to allocate its national delegates.
That will change in 2020.
“Democrats in Washington are ready for the big show in 2020,” said Tina Podlodowski, Chair of the Washington State Democrats. “We look forward to more Presidential candidate attention and visits, increasing voter and activist engagement, and lifting up Democrats at all levels on the 2020 ballot.”
The party’s historic vote in favor of a primary was made possible thanks to the Legislature’s recent passage of ESB 5273, prime sponsored by Senator Sam Hunt, which NPI enthusiastically worked to pass. ESB 5273 modified Washington’s presidential primary law to make it complaint with DNC rules and ensure that the Democratic Party’s First Amendment rights of free assembly were respected.
ESB 5273 — which Governor Inslee has signed — is slated to take effect this July.
With the bill having become session law, the stage was set for a real debate in Pasco among the party’s one hundred and fifty plus member central committee.
After an extensive, lively discussion which remained civil throughout, the party held a roll call vote, similar to those held in the Washington State Senate, on the question of whether to retain precinct caucuses for delegate allocation or switch to a primary while continuing to use caucuses and conventions at four higher levels for delegate selection and partybuilding.
The results were as follows:
- For a presidential primary: 121 (one hundred and twenty-one members)
- For precinct caucuses: 40 (forty members)
- Abstaining: 8 (eight members)
- Not voting: 10 (ten members)
- Vacant positions on the WSDCC: 8 (eight positions)
Of the one hundred and sixty-nine members present and voting, about seventy-one percent selected the primary-caucus hybrid plan, which was presented as the majority report of the Rules Committee. Less than twenty-four percent voted for the caucus-only plan calling for presidential precinct caucuses, which the party has been using for decades to allocate national convention delegates.
Prior to its meeting in Pasco, the party put the two dueling plans up for a vote on a website, waelectioncenter.com, where anyone could leave a comment and voice an opinion on whether the party should utilize a state-run presidential primary in 2020 or use presidential precinct caucuses to allocate its national delegates.
More than ninety percent of the more than 13,000 individuals who participated asked the party to embrace a state-run presidential primary for 2020.
Today, the WSDCC demonstrated it is listening, with nearly three out of every four members backing the historic proposal to commit the party to a primary.
The party’s draft Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan will soon be sent to the Democratic National Committee for final approval. If the DNC signs off, the plan will become official. It calls for nominating events on the following dates:
- Presidential Primary: Tuesday, March 10th (ballots mailed in February)
- Legislative District Caucuses: Sunday, April 26th, at 1 PM
- County Conventions: Sunday, May 3rd at 1 PM
- Congressional District Caucuses: May 30th (time to be determined)
- State Convention: June 12th-14th (Friday-Sunday in Tacoma)
The Democratic Party of Oregon and the Idaho Democratic Party are also planning to use presidential primaries to allocate their 2020 national convention delegates. Oregon has long made use of a primary, while Idaho has traditionally used caucuses and will be making the switch just like Washington.