It’s clear that Washington citizens want to participate in the presidential nomination process. Many turned out to vote last spring in the state’s presidential primary, which was essentially meaningless because of its late date and lack of full participation by the political parties.
People voted even though they had to declare a party affiliation in order to do so in either the Republican or Democratic primaries.
Still, having to declare a party affiliation rubs many voters the wrong way. It irks us too. And it kept people from voting.
We have consistently opposed continuing the Washington presidential primary because spending 11 million taxpayer dollars for an election that was little more than a feel-good exercise is foolish.
But Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, is asking state lawmakers for reforms that might make the primary more relevant and allow all voters to participate. Her ideas have merit.
Wyman is pushing legislation to move up the date from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March.
“We think this will increase participation and increase relevance of Washington in the presidential nomination process,” Wyman said at a hearing on the legislation held by the House State Government, Elections and Information Technology Committee.
In addition, the proposal gives the secretary of state authority to remove presidential candidates from the ballot who are no longer competing. This is just good sense.
But the most important — and needed — change is to allow people to vote without aligning themselves with either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Currently, in order to vote in a presidential primary, one must pick a party and sign an oath on the ballot envelope affirming allegiance to that party.
Instead, Wyman suggests voters would be able to cast a ballot without aligning with either party. Their ballots would be counted and vote totals posted on the secretary of state’s election website. However, the Democratic and Republican parties would not be required to use them in their respective nominating processes.
Given that the next presidential election is more than three years away, it’s unlikely that lawmakers will take action this year. However, it’s wise of Wyman to get discussion started now.
The state presidential primary needs to be improved — or ended. The current system stinks.