Republican or Democrat? Washington’s voters shouldn’t have to tell

Has your vote been counted? Here’s how to check in Washington state

Washington is one of three states that send ballots in the mail to all registered voters. Here is how you can check if your vote has been counted.
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Washington is one of three states that send ballots in the mail to all registered voters. Here is how you can check if your vote has been counted.

Washington state’s 2020 presidential primary should be more noteworthy than ever before thanks to a change in the election date. However, it is likely this positive development will be overshadowed by voter frustration.

That’s because participants still will have to declare whether they are a Republican or a Democrat when they cast their ballots, and those who consider themselves independent of either party are sure to balk at the requirement.

It is unfortunate lawmakers didn’t change these rules when they had the chance.

On March 14 Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Senate Bill 5273, which moves next year’s presidential primary from late May to the second Tuesday in March.

We encouraged the date change because the May election makes our state practically irrelevant during the presidential campaign.

In 2016 the presidential primary cost Washington taxpayers about $12 million, and by the time it rolled around, the only Republican left in the GOP race was Donald Trump. On the Democrats’ side, the caucuses ignored the primary election results favoring Hillary Clinton and went with Bernie Sanders as their choice.

Moving up the date to March should give more weight to Washington votes and entice presidential hopefuls to our state. And that’s a good thing. Those campaigning here would have to be prepped on matters important to the Northwest – like Hanford cleanup, the Snake River dams and trade issues.

While this will make for a more exciting presidential primary, we fear many people will be so irritated that they have to declare a political party before they vote, they probably won’t bother.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said as much when he issued a statement on the day the governor signed into law the presidential primary date change.

Schoesler said, “While I applaud moving Washington’s presidential primary to March so it gives our state’s voters a greater voice in choosing the presidential nominees, I’m disappointed that this legislation will disenfranchise independent-minded voters in our state since many of them will refuse to affiliate with either of the two major parties.”

He called the new law a “big win for the political parties in Washington but a lost opportunity on behalf of our many voters who value independence and privacy.”

We agree.

The original bill allowed people to participate in the presidential primary without having to declare themselves a Democrat or Republican when they vote, but that language eventually was taken out.

Now, what was conceived as a way to increase voter participation will ultimately encourage people to opt out of the process.

Next March’s presidential primary election will be more significant than ever, but it won’t count like it should, and that’s a shame.