The Washington GOP and Democratic caucus dates have been set for 2012.
The Republican gatherings will be on Saturday, March 3, very early on the national nominating calendar. The Democrats, with no apparent challenge to President Obama’s renomination, will meet on Sunday, April 15.
In the absence of a presidential primary in 2012, the traditional caucus-convention process will be used by the two major parties to choose their national convention delegates and to work on platform issues for their respective state conventions.
Former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance writes in Crosscut describing how the Republicans’ system will work. The Democrats’ system is roughly the same. Details, rules, schedules and locales will be announced in due course by the parties, including on their websites.
Due to budget constraints, the voter-initiated state presidential primary is being suspended for 2012. Since lawmakers approved the Initiative to the Legislature back in 1989, the Democrats have never used the results to allocate delegates to the national convention, relying on the traditional caucuses, which were not abolished when the primary was created. Republicans have typically used both caucuses and primary results to determine their delegate split.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, who only reluctantly supported the one-time suspension of the primary during the current tight budget times, said one benefit of the primary has been much broader participation, often 10 times greater than the caucuses. Under the primary system, all voters receive a ballot and can take part in one party’s action.
Party activists in Washington tend to favor the caucuses, which attract the most energized and partisan grassroots participants. Caucuses are typically held in neighborhood gatherings at schools, private homes, fire halls and other locales. Whereas a primary vote can be cast and posted in a minute or two over the course of several weeks, the caucuses last an hour or two and are held on one particular day and time, with sign-ins for participants, discussion of issues, and election of delegates to legislative and county conventions. State convention delegates and national delegates are picked later, usually hewing to the general proportions that were set in the caucuses.
Secretary Reed is encouraging voters to plan on attending their favorite party’s caucus this time around.
“These community gatherings are very interesting to observe and to take part in, and they offer a good way for interested folks to get involved in campaigns at the ground-level. Who knows, you might even get elected as a delegate. If you love politics, party platforms and discussion of the major issues of the day, this is your opportunity to have your voice heard.”