OLYMPIA – Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman wants to move the state’s Presidential Primary ahead by nearly three months, from May to March.
Two measures under consideration during the 2018 Legislative Session – Senate Bill 5333 and House Bill 1469 – would schedule the Presidential Primary for the second Tuesday in March every four years.
Wyman said the change would likely result in more visits from presidential candidates and a greater selection for voters to choose from.
“By the time Washington’s Primary Election rolled around in 2016, the two nominations had largely been decided — and yet 1.4 million people still participated,” Wyman said.
“Imagine how many would have turned out if it were earlier?” Wyman added. “Moving the date up makes Washington a relevant battleground state again, and our voters would actually hear from candidates themselves instead of just their campaigns soliciting donations.”
The proposed change would also authorize the Secretary of State to move the Presidential Primary date in order to include Washington in a regional, multi-state primary — creating a “super Tuesday” for the northwestern or western United States. Further, the bill would restore the unaffiliated ballot in a Presidential Primary contest.
“Unaffiliated ballots were last used in 2000, and since then, hundreds of thousands of independent voters have been required to declare a party affiliation if they wanted to participate,” Wyman said.
“Many of them have simply chosen not to vote since then,” she said. “By restoring the unaffiliated ballot and counting those votes separately from party votes, participation would increase significantly and citizens would be assured that their voices are indeed being heard.”
Another proposal from Wyman would create a “Future Voter” program, in which 16- and 17-year-old Washington residents could enroll and be ready to vote by their 18th birthday.
Additionally, people who apply for an enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identification card — both of which require proof of citizenship — would be automatically registered to vote unless they chose to opt out at the counter.
Wyman is also pushing other proposals this legislative session. They include:
• Moving the date of the state Primary Election from August to early June;
• Requiring high schools to provide students with opportunities to enroll in the Future Voter program; and
• Extending the in-person voter registration deadline to Election Day.
“At least two studies of voter participation in Washington have linked low turnout to inconveniently placed primary dates, not to mention all the national data that shows getting young adults interested in civics almost guarantees that they’ll become lifelong voters,” Wyman said.
“The objective here is to get everyone in Washington who is eligible registered and voting,” she added, “and all of these ideas will make significant strides toward that goal.”