2020 presidential primary ballot (King County)
The 2020 presidential primary ballot created by King County Elections

Wash­ing­ton could end up being one of the first states in the nation to hold a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry in the upcom­ing 2024 cycle if the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee decides to award it a cov­et­ed spot on the nom­i­nat­ing cal­en­dar, the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty announced today.

The par­ty — on whose gov­ern­ing body I sit as a state cen­tral com­mit­teemem­ber — will get a chance to make a for­mal pitch sup­port­ing its bid for an ear­ly spot on the cal­en­dar to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Com­mit­tee lat­er this month. Two oth­er states are also in the run­ning for the west­ern region’s spot: Col­orado and Neva­da, which have vot­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic for Pres­i­dent for sev­er­al con­sec­u­tive cycles.

If Wash­ing­ton is cho­sen, Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers here would get a chance to influ­ence the 2024 nom­i­na­tion at a very ear­ly stage for the first time in U.S. history.

Until 2020, Wash­ing­ton used an all-cau­cus sys­tem to allo­cate and select its nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates. But last cycle, the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee vot­ed to adopt a hybrid pri­ma­ry + cau­cus del­e­gate selec­tion plan after the Leg­is­la­ture agreed to change state law to pro­vide for a pri­ma­ry that ful­ly respect­ed the par­ty’s First Amend­ment right of free assembly.

(Adop­tion of that leg­is­la­tion was one of NPI’s 2019 leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, and I was one of the state com­mit­teemem­bers who cham­pi­oned the hybrid plan.)

That hybrid plan called for the use of pri­ma­ry to allo­cate all of the con­ven­tion del­e­gates and cau­cus­es to decide who would rep­re­sent the par­ty at the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, which end­ed up being held most­ly remotely.

The plan worked extreme­ly well, and Wash­ing­ton saw record-break­ing pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry turnout just as SARS-CoV­‑2 was becom­ing a glob­al pub­lic health emer­gency. Instead of hav­ing to spend hours in a gym or cafe­te­ria to vote in a cau­cus (which would not have been fea­si­ble to stage in any case due to the coro­n­avirus), vot­ers were able to express a pref­er­ence for who the nom­i­nee should be sim­ply by cast­ing a bal­lot sent to them by coun­ty elec­tions officials.

A deci­sion by the DNC to give Wash­ing­ton a more promi­nent role in the qua­dren­ni­al nom­i­nat­ing process which would be a big deal. In the event of a com­pet­i­tive pri­ma­ry, Wash­ing­ton would like­ly see more vis­its from pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and could host one of the debates, too. Even if Pres­i­dent Biden runs again and faces lit­tle oppo­si­tion for the nom­i­na­tion, Wash­ing­ton would still wind up get­ting more nation­al atten­tion than it has in the past.

“It is an hon­or to advo­cate for Wash­ing­ton on the nation­al stage and high­light the many rea­sons why our state con­tin­ues to be on the fore­front of pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics not only in the West, but the entire nation,” State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki said in a state­ment sent to media outlets.

“Wash­ing­ton is one of the best posi­tioned states to run the kind of high-pro­file and vot­er-acces­si­ble nom­i­nat­ing con­test that a pre-win­dow state requires,” Pod­lodows­ki not­ed last month when the par­ty first applied. “Our state has every­thing a bal­anced nom­i­nat­ing con­test should look for: broad diver­si­ty – racial­ly, eco­nom­i­cal­ly, geo­graph­i­cal­ly, and polit­i­cal­ly – a ded­i­cat­ed and effec­tive par­ty orga­ni­za­tion and demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-con­trolled gov­ern­ment, and a shin­ing vote-by-mail sys­tem to encour­age sta­bil­i­ty and faith in the nom­i­nat­ing process itself.”

The state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers all sup­port the bid, from Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs to Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins, Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig, and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of state’s con­gres­sion­al delegation.

The DNC will make a final deci­sion between Wash­ing­ton, Col­orado, and Neva­da in ear­ly August, around the same time Wash­ing­ton holds its 2022 Top Two election.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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