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Washington voters choosing between Biden and Trump on presidential primary day

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(The Center Square) – Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump could earn enough delegates to clinch the nominations for their respective parties Tuesday, when four states – including Washington – and one territory will report their election results.

In a bid to be more relevant, Washington moved its primary up a few years ago from May to March, and even briefly considered being part of Super Tuesday, when most states hold their primaries or caucuses. Still, the conventional wisdom in the current presidential contest is that Biden and Trump are cruising to a general election rematch in November.

Halei Watkins is the communications manager at King County Elections. She provided some information about Washington’s presidential primary.

“The parties use the results from this presidential primary to allocate their delegates at their national conventions and ultimately nominate their candidate for president of the United States,” she told The Center Square.

She explained why ballots contain the names of people who are no longer in the race.

“We are given the names of the candidates in early January, so after the Jan. 9 deadline has passed, the names are what the names are,” Watkins said. “We saw the same thing happen before, and we will count those votes for the candidates, and ultimately it’s up to the parties to decide how they want to use that information.”

As for projecting turnout, Watkins said officials look at previous presidential primary elections and recent trends and then “make an educated guess.”

In 2020, King County voter turnout for the presidential primary was 49.6%.

In 2016, turnout was much lower, at just 34.78%.

According to Watkins, as of Monday, turnout was just under 25%, which is right on track to be near their projected 40% overall for King County voter turnout once all ballots are processed.

Questions have come up, she noted, from voters regarding having to mark a party preference on the outside of the return envelope. Washington is a vote-by-mail state.

“State law does require voters to select that party box in order for us to be able to accept and open the ballot to be counted,” Watkins said.

If a voter does not declare a political party preference, the vote will not count during the presidential primary.

In such a case, Watkins noted, the elections office will try to contact the voter to resolve the issue so the ballot can be counted before election results are certified later this month

A voter whose party preference doesn’t match their selected candidate won’t have their ballot counted.

“That will result in your ballot being rejected, so it’s really important for voters to select that box, and then vote for one candidate from that same party,” Watkins said.

Voters are not required to vote for the party’s candidate in the general election in November.

The first preliminary results of Washington’s presidential primary will be posted at 8 p.m. Tuesday and then after 4 p.m. on weekdays until election results are certified on March 22.

Republicans in Georgia and Mississippi are holding primaries Tuesday, while Hawaii is holding GOP caucuses.

Democrats are holding primaries in Georgia and Mississippi, too, as well as the northern Mariana Islands.

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