2016 Presidential Primary

The Presidential Primary FAQ is also available in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Key Dates for the Presidential Primary and Party Caucuses

  • February 20 - Washington State Republican Party Caucuses (for more info: www.wsrp.org)
  • March 26 - Washington State Democratic Party Caucuses (for more info: www.wa-democrats.org)
  • April 9 - Military and overseas ballots mailed for the Presidential Primary
  • April 25 - Deadline to register by mail or online, or update your registration
  • May 6 - Presidential Primary 18-day voting period begins / regular ballots mailed
  • May 16 - Deadline for new Washington state voter registration (in person only)
  • May 24 - Presidential Primary


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the Presidential Primary?

On May 24, 2016, the Presidential Primary offers all voters an opportunity to participate in the nomination of major political party candidates. These candidates are nominated at each major political party national convention. The political parties may choose to use the Primary results when determining the candidate each Washington State delegate supports at the national party convention.

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How will the political parties use the results of the Presidential Primary?

The political parties retain the authority to decide if they will use the Presidential Primary to allocate delegates to the national nomination conventions. The political parties may also use caucus results, or a combination of primary results and caucus results.

The Republican Party will use the Presidential Primary results to allocate 100% of their convention delegates. The Democratic Party will not use the Primary Election results to allocate any of their delegates. They will rely solely on the results of their Precinct Caucuses on March 26th.

For more information about the caucuses, please contact the political parties.

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What is the difference between a primary and a caucus?

One of the main differences between a primary election and a caucus is who is running the show. State governments conduct primaries, while state parties are behind caucuses. In both processes, voters are selecting candidates who will move on to the presidential election in November.

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Can I participate in both the primary and a political party caucus?

Voters may participate in party caucuses and the Presidential Primary, but only on behalf of the same party.

Every voter participating in the Presidential Primary must sign a party declaration stating that the voter has not participated in the other party's caucus process. Each party will receive a list of voters who chose to affiliate with that party in the primary.

The Washington State Republican precinct caucuses were Saturday, February 20, 2016. The Washington State Democratic precinct caucuses were Saturday, March 26, 2016. For information regarding party caucuses, contact the state political party organization.

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What is the last day to register so I can vote in the 2016 Presidential Primary?

To vote in the 2016 Presidential Primary, you must be a registered voter in Washington state. We encourage voters to register as soon as possible to avoid delays.

April 25, 2016 is the last day of registration by mail or online. Voters not currently registered to vote in Washington state may register in person in a County Auditor's Office until May 16, 2016.

April 25, 2016 is also the deadline to change an address or name for existing Washington state voter registrations.

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How do I participate?

Every registered voter will receive a Presidential Primary ballot in the mail.

Party declaration. You must sign a political party declaration on the ballot return envelope. The declaration signed must match your voted candidate's political party.

Vote for one only. Both the Democratic and Republican ballots will appear on a single consolidated ballot. Unlike other elections, you may only vote for one candidate on the entire consolidated ballot page.

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Why do I have to declare a party?

For the Presidential Primary only, the major political parties require voters to subscribe to a specific party declaration. For 2016, both the republican and democratic parties submitted party declarations for the Presidential Primary. (RCW 29A.56.050)

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What is a major political party?

A major political party is defined as:

"...a political party whose nominees for president and vice president received at least five percent of the total vote cast at the last presidential election." (RCW 29A.04.086)
Currently, only the Republican and Democratic Party qualify as major political parties.

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Where did the party declarations come from?

The major parties drafted the declarations to which voters must attest. They are:

Republican: "I declare that I am a Republican and I have not participated and will not participate in the 2016 precinct caucus or convention system of any other party."

Democrat: "I declare that I consider myself to be a DEMOCRAT and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2016 Presidential election."

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How long will my party choice be part of my voter registration record?

Your party choice will be removed from your voter registration record after 60 days.

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Why is Ted Cruz still on the ballot?

Ted Cruz publicly suspended his campaign on May 3, long after the deadline and after ballots and voters’ pamphlets were printed.

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Why is John Kasich still on the ballot?

John Kasich publicly suspended his campaign on May 4, long after the deadline and after ballots and voters’ pamphlets were printed.

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Why is Ben Carson still on the ballot?

Ben Carson publicly suspended his campaign on March 4; however, the candidate did not submit a Withdrawal of Candidacy.

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Why is Marco Rubio not on the ballot?

Even though he was included on the initial list of candidates, Marco Rubio is not included in the Voters' Pamphlet or ballot because he submitted a Withdrawal of Candidacy on March 18.

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Why can’t the Secretary of State simply cancel the Presidential Primary?

Suspending or canceling the Presidential Primary is solely a legislative decision, and would have been required in 2015. The Secretary of State does not have the authority to stop an election already in progress. Further, the Presidential Primary has been in progress for some time. Preparations, including training of county election administrators, preparation of the Voters’ Pamphlet, and county purchasing of envelopes and ballot stock had been underway since the first of the year. Federal law requires that ballots be sent to military and overseas voters 45 days before the election. Counties began sending all other voters their ballots the week of May 2. Many voters were voting before Sen. Cruz and Gov. Kasich suspended their campaigns.

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