Presidential Primary FAQ
Washington's Presidential Primary is a way to for voters to help the major political parties choose presidential nominees. The primary will be held March 12, 2024 (one week after Super Tuesday). If you are registered to vote in Washington, there is no need to request a ballot. Confirm your registration at VoteWA.gov.
Voters who choose to participate in the nomination process will mark and sign party declarations on their ballot return envelopes. State law sets the date-setting process, how candidates get on the ballot, and how parties use the results.
- Key Dates
January 9 - Deadline for each major political party to submit their final list of candidates to be printed on their side of the ballot. Once the names are submitted to the Office of the Secretary of State, changes cannot be made (RCW29A.56.031). The same candidates will appear in the printed Voters’ Pamphlet and online Voters’ Guide. If you’re a major political party candidate/campaign, please contact our office.
January 27 – Military and overseas ballots and Voters’ Pamphlets are mailed.
February 14 thru 23 –Voters’ Pamphlets are mailed to every household.
February 23 – Start of 18-day voting period (through Election Day). Ballots are mailed to every registered voter and voting centers are open with Accessible Voting Units (AVUs). Voters must mark one party box and sign the declaration on the return envelope.
March 4 – Deadline for online and by mail registration and address updates. Mailed registrations must be received by an elections official by this date, not postmarked by this date.
March 12 – Presidential Primary
- Last day to register or update in person at a county elections office.
- Mailed ballots must have a March 12 postmark to count.
- Ballot boxes and voting centers close at 8:00 p.m.
- After 8:00 p.m., counties begin transmission of results to the Secretary of State.
March 29 – Last day for Secretary of State to certify Presidential Primary results.
July, August - The major political parties hold conventions to officially nominate their candidates for U.S. President. The 2024 Democratic National Convention is August 19-22, 2024, and the Republican National Convention is July 15-18, 2024.
For more info, contact the WA State Democratic Party at 206-583-0664, or the WA State Republican Party at 425-460-0570.
- What is the Presidential Primary?
The 2024 Presidential Primary is a chance to participate in the nomination process for the office of U.S. President. Voters help the major political parties choose presidential nominees.
Washington's Presidential Primary was first created in 1989 through a citizens' Initiative to the Legislature to include more voters in the process. This is the only election in which state law requires Washington's voters to mark and sign party declarations written by the major political parties. Every registered voter receives a mailed ballot packet after February 23.
- How do candidates get on Washington’s ballot?
Each major political party decides which candidates are printed on their side of the ballot. On January 9, each major party submits its final list of names to the Secretary of State’s Office. Once the party's list of candidates is submitted, changes cannot be made (RCW 29A.56.031). For more information about each party's internal rules for getting on the list, please contact the WA State Democratic Party at 206-583-0664, or the WA State Republican Party at 425-460-0570.
The order of political parties and candidates is determined by the number of votes cast for U.S. President at the last presidential election. The major political party that received the highest number of votes from the electors of this state for the office of president at the last presidential election must appear first. In 2020, the Democratic Party received the highest number of votes and must appear first in 2024. Candidates are placed on the ballot in alphabetical order within each party. Candidates on the list will appear in the same order in the printed Voters' Pamphlet.
Minor and independent candidates do not participate in the Presidential Primary and must comply with a different convention process.
- How do I participate?
Every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail after February 23. Voters in Washington do not declare a party when registering to vote, but to help the parties choose a presidential nominee, voters must mark one party box and sign the declarations on the return envelope.
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 ballot page.
Party declaration. Each major party writes its party declaration and provides it to the Secretary of State's Office for ballot materials. For your vote to count, the candidate you mark on the ballot must match the political party declaration (box) you mark on the return envelope.
Visit VoteWA.gov to see if your registration is up to date!
- Why do I need to mark a party box?
This type of primary is a way for voters to help political parties choose presidential nominees. For the March 12 Presidential Primary only, the major political parties require voters to mark and sign the party declaration. If you choose to participate, your choice of party will not affect how you may vote in future elections. You must mark and sign the political party declaration (box) on your envelope for your vote to count per RCW 29A.56.050.
Each major party submitted its declaration and provided wording to the Secretary of State’s Office for ballot materials. Attempts to change the party declaration could result in your ballot not being counted.
- I declare that my party preference is the Democratic Party and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2024 Presidential election.
- I declare that my party preference is the Republican Party and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2024 Presidential election.
In the November General Election, you will not declare a party and may vote for any Presidential candidate you wish.
- By selecting a party, will I remain affiliated with that party?
No, your party selection will be removed from your voter record 60 days after certification of the Presidential Primary.
- Can I vote for a candidate from each political party?
No. Your ballot is divided into two sides: Democratic Party (blue) and Republican Party (red). For your vote to count, you must vote for one candidate from the political party you marked on your envelope. If you vote both sides of the ballot, or the opposite side of the ballot, your vote will not count.
- What is the difference between a primary and a caucus?
The Presidential Primary is an accessible way for voters to help the political parties choose their presidential nominees. Each registered voter will receive a ballot from their county elections office as they would with other elections.
Caucuses are events run by each party to determine issues for party platforms and to select the delegates who will participate in state and national party conventions. For caucuses, you will not receive a ballot from your county elections office. For more information about the caucuses and how to participate, please contact your political party.
- Can I participate in both the Presidential Primary and a caucus?
Yes. Voters may participate in a political party caucus 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. Per state law, each party receives a list of voters who chose to affiliate with that party in the Presidential Primary only (RCW 29A.56.050).
- What if the candidate I voted for drops out of the race?
It's possible for candidates to suspend their campaigns before March 12, but every voted ballot returned to the local elections office will be processed and all results reported. Once your ballot has been received by your local county elections office, it’s not possible to change your vote. The Secretary of State certifies results no later than March 29.
To ensure delivery of ballots and Voters' Pamphlets to military and overseas voters, state law requires each major political party to provide its final list of candidates to the Secretary of State's Office no later than January 9. Each political party decides which candidates are printed on their side of the ballot. Once each political party submits their list of candidates to the Secretary of State, changes cannot be made (RCW 29A.56.031).
- If I've already sent in my ballot but my candidate dropped out of the race, can I change my vote?
Once you return your ballot, you cannot change your vote. You can check the status of your ballot on VoteWA.gov. If you have filled out your ballot but have not yet turned it in, you can print a replacement ballot on VoteWA.gov or obtain a new ballot at your county elections office.
- How will the political parties use the results?
The major political parties have adopted rules to decide how to use the Presidential Primary results to allocate delegates to the national nomination conventions. Both parties will be using the results of the Presidential Primary for delegate allocation (RCW 29A.56.050). For more information about how your party intends to allocate delegates, please contact that political party.
- What's the difference between this primary and the Primary in August?
The Presidential Primary in March is a nomination process to help the major political parties choose their presidential nominees. Presidential nominees will not appear in the Top 2 Primary in August. Instead, they move on to the November General ballot.
Voters will not sign a party declaration to participate in the August Primary or the November General Election. The state August Primary includes local, state, and federal races other than U.S. President. The two candidates who get the most votes in each race qualify for the November General Election.
- How does Washington define a “major political party?"
A major political party is "...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 parties qualify as major political parties. For minor and independent candidates see Running for the President of the United States.
- Past Presidential Primary Turnout
- Contact Information
State Elections Division: [email protected] or (800) 448-4881
County Election Offices: Select your county on the map or view a list of all counties.