Frequently Asked Questions
Who decides whether Democrats in Washington state will use a primary or a caucus in 2020 to allocate national delegates among presidential candidates?
The decision will be made by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC), the governing body of the Washington State Democratic Party. The WSDCC’s membership consists of two representatives from each of the legislative district and county organizations, as well as four party officers and a few special members. The full body of the WSDCC will vote on April 7, 2019 on whether to adopt a presidential primary system or continue with the current caucus system. The decision is not up to the chair or party staff, who follow the direction of the WSDCC.
What is the difference between a primary and a caucus?
A primary would use a state-run election with a ballot to determine how many delegates from Washington state Democratic presidential candidates would receive. A caucus would use local Democratic meetings where participants gather to discuss the candidates and determine how many delegates from Washington state Democratic presidential candidates would receive.
Why is a primary possible this year, but was not possible previous years?
Due to changes in the Washington state primary process, we will have the ability to select whether to use a primary or a caucus to allocate delegates for Democratic presidential candidates because our state’s primary process will be compliant with DNC rules. That hasn’t been the case in previous years.
Why do we need to follow the DNC rules?
The DNC determines whether or not to recognize a state’s delegates at the national convention. If a state has allocated those delegates through a process that does not comply with DNC rules, the DNC could decide not to seat the delegates from that state, or to seat them but decrease their voting power.
If a primary is chosen over a caucus, will we do away with caucuses entirely?
Not at all! In fact, there will still be caucuses at the legislative district (LD) level to determine who the delegates will be that will represent Washington voters at the state and national conventions. The difference is that there won’t be precinct level caucuses in determining how many pledged delegates each candidate will receive from Washington. Instead, there would be a mail-in vote — much like there is in non-presidential elections — to determine the apportionment of the delegates. That’s why a better term for the primary system is a “hybrid primary-caucus,” and a better term for the caucus system is a “full caucus cycle.” But to keep things simple, we use the shorter terms “primary” and “caucus.”
If we’ll still have caucuses, then what is the point of switching to a primary?
The answer to this question hinges on the difference between delegate allocation — which determines the number of delegates allocated to each candidate — and delegate selection — the process in which individuals are selected to be delegates. We’ll be selecting delegates through caucuses either way, though this process is often viewed as secondary to the delegate allocation process. We’ve heard lot of comments from people both in favor of using a state-run primary to allocate delegates and in favor keeping caucuses to allocate delegates. That’s why we are taking this decision seriously and want to hear from you.
I want to be a delegate to the national convention. Will using a primary impact the process to become a delegate?
The process to become a delegate will remain the same, no matter which plan is adopted. As stated above, only the delegate allocation process will be affected if the primary is adopted. Under both plans, the electing of delegates will occur at a different round of caucuses after the allocation of delegates is determined.
Who administers a primary? Who administers a caucus?
A primary is administered by the Office of the Secretary of State for Washington. That is the state government entity that oversees most elections throughout the state in coordination with county auditors.
A caucus is administered by the Party. In this case, the Washington State Democratic Party and local party organizations (LPOs) around the state at both the LD and county levels would administer the caucus. Much of the work, including setting up sites and running the caucuses, will be done by volunteers.
When would the primary and/or caucus occur to vote on a presidential primary candidate?
The caucuses would occur on March 21, 2020. The date for a primary has not yet been fully decided upon, but it would likely occur in March of 2020. You can see a list of important dates and a more detailed timeline on the timeline page.