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Key deadlines and dates for 2016 WA Primary ?>

Key deadlines and dates for 2016 WA Primary


Washington voters soon will have the chance to have their voices heard by voting in the 2016 state Primary.

County elections officials will be mailing Primary ballots to registered voters around July 15. Military and overseas ballots were sent out June 18.

If you’re not registered to vote, you can’t take part in this important step to winnow down the list of candidates to two in each race for this fall’s General Election.

July 4 is the last day you can register online or via mail to vote in the Primary, or to make updates to your registration status. Registrations sent by mail need to be postmarked by July 4, but remember that the U.S. Postal Service won’t postmark registrations on July 3 (Sunday) or July 4 (holiday). For voter registration forms collected by drives, it’s important to note that those registration forms must arrive in your county elections office or the Office of Secretary of State by July 4 (just remember that county and state offices will be closed July 3-4).

If you miss the July 4 deadline and aren’t registered to vote in Washington, you have until July 25 to do so at your county elections office to vote in the Primary.

The ’16 Primary marks the ninth year in which the voter-approved Top 2 Primary system is being used to winnow down the number of candidates in races.

This year’s Primary voting period ends Aug. 2 and features a U.S. Senate contest and all 10 congressional races. All of the statewide and most legislative seats are on the Primary ballot, as well as many judicial and local positions.

Our Elections Division has produced this nifty online Voters’ Guide. You can also learn more about the Primary candidates by viewing the Video Voters’ Guide produced by TVW.

Primary ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 2 or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots can also be returned to accessible voting centers during business hours.

Top 2 Primary produces November finalists ?>

Top 2 Primary produces November finalists

top2Washington voters made ready for the fall General Election by choosing their favorites to advance beyond the first cut — the qualifying election called the Top 2 Primary.

There were surprises — such as several state Senate incumbents who were attempting to fend off strong challenges — and the twist of producing several marquee November finals that will feature finalists from the same party preference.

Prime example: 4th Congressional District voters in Eastern Washington were choosing two Republicans, former Super Bowl football player Clint Didier and former lawmaker and state agriculture director Dan Newhouse, as the top two. Although the GOP vote was spread amongst eight candidates, Didier and Newhouse still were collecting enough votes to outdistance both of the Democratic hopefuls. Rep. Doc Hastings is departing after 20 years in office.

Two Republicans also were winning a state Senate Top 2 Primary in the Auburn area 31st District: the senior state senator, Pam Roach, and her House district-mate and challenger, Cathy Dahlquist, were neck-and-neck.  Democrats had a similar lock on runoff spots in the open 37th District Senate race: Pramila Jaypal and Louis Watanabe.

Republican Senate incumbents in Puget Sound country were faring well. But a maverick Democrat who helped form a GOP-dominated Senate majority coalition, Tim Sheldon, was in a tight race to win a runoff spot in the 35th District.

Voters in many areas were choosing courthouse officials and some jurisdictions had ballot measures.  Seattle voters, for instance, were approving a parks measure.

There were no statewide offices, U.S. Senate races or propositions on the primary ballot this year. All 10 U.S. House seats were on the ballot, as were 25 Senate districts and all 98 state House seats.

About 936,000 ballots were tabulated by election night, for a turnout of 24 percent of registered voters so far.  Secretary of State Kim Wyman said that turnout number should grow to the upper 30s by the time all incoming ballots are received. That would be one of the best turnouts in the country, she noted.

WA Primary voters give their Top 2 verdicts ?>

WA Primary voters give their Top 2 verdicts


The seventh running of Washington’s Top 2 Primary gave voters the task of  winnowing the field of candidates for scores of state and local offices.

The system, used since a voter-approved Top 2 initiative got the green light from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, lets voters collectively choose their two favorite candidates for each office to face off in the Nov. 4 General Election.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections official, urged a strong turnout, reminding voters that selecting finalists for the General Election is a crucial part of the process, and that many of our legislators, judges and local officials on the ballot will make decisions that affect our daily lives directly.

Here are some highlights and voter information compiled by state Elections Director Lori Augino.


  • Ballots must be postmarked or in ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Night.
  • To find a ballot drop box: visit
  • Visit your County Auditor’s Office for a replacement ballot, or go online to
  • If you are in line at a ballot drop box before 8 pm, you will be allowed to deposit your ballot.
  • Don’t count on your post office to be open to get a postmark after regular business hours. If you wait until Election Day, use a ballot drop box instead.
  • If you choose to mail your ballot on Election Day, make sure it is before the last collection time posted on the box.


State Voters’ Pamphlets

  • To find out more about the candidates, visit our online voters’ guide at or your personalized Voters’ Guide at
  • Contact your county for a local voters’ pamphlet (only available in some counties).
  • After the Primary, you can expect the state General Election Voters’ Pamphlet to arrive by October 21.



  • Results will begin to post at after 8 p.m. on Election Night.
  • Find the free results app “WA State Election Results” in iTunes or Google Play.
  • Results will continue to be updated until certification.
  • Results are not final until certified.  Districts within a single county will be certified on August 19 by the county.  Multiple-county districts races will be certified by the Secretary of State on August 22.


Hot Issues

  • Wildfires continue to burn in Northeastern Washington. We’re expecting a small hit to turnout in these areas. The elections offices in the area are up, running, and fully functional with power, Internet, and phone services to all offices as of Monday.


  • We have a packed ballot in the 4th Congressional District race (replacing retiring Rep. Doc Hastings) with 12 candidates vying for a spot on the General Election ballot.


  • The widest-open legislative contest is the one to replace Adam Kline in the Senate seat for the 37th with 6 candidates on the ballot in the Primary.


2014 WA Primary: Your vote, your voice ?>

2014 WA Primary: Your vote, your voice


Ten years after Washington voters adopted the Top 2 Primary system by initiative, it’s time for the 2014 edition.

Check your mail over the next few days for your Primary ballot.  Although it’s a mid-term election, there are races and propositions that are significant for your community, and we’re hoping for an excellent turnout, state Elections Director Lori Augino said this week.

The 2014 Primary actually got under way last month when county election officials sent ballots by mail and electronically to about 65,000 military and overseas voters.  Now it’s time for the rest of us.

This year’s Primary, which ends Aug. 5, will be dominated by races in all 10 congressional districts, including the competitive race in Eastern Washington’s open 4th Congressional District to replace retiring U.S. Rep. “Doc” Hastings. The Primary also includes all 98 state House seats and 25 of the 49 state Senate seats. Among the state Senate battles is the crowded race in the 37th Legislative District to replace retiring Sen. Adam Kline.

There are no races for U.S. Senate or statewide offices this year. None of the four state Supreme Court races will be on the Primary ballot.

The top two vote-getters in each partisan race advance to the General Election, regardless of party preference. Go here to view our online Primary Voters’ Guide on the congressional and legislative primary races.

Voters in many counties also will see many local races and ballot measures on their Primary ballot. Among the most publicized in King County is Proposition 1, which would create the Seattle Park District.

Secretary of State Wyman predicts that Primary voter turnout will be about 40 percent, which is in the same range as the 2010 Primary (41 percent) and 2006 Primary (38.8 percent).

Wyman, Washington’s chief elections official, encourages voters to take part in the Primary by filling out and returning their ballot in time for their vote to count.

“Several important local ballot measures will be decided in this Primary, and congressional, legislative and county races will be pared down to two candidates for the General Election, so I encourage voters to study the races and measures and take a few minutes to fill out and return their ballot by Election Day,” Wyman said.

Ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 5 or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots can also be returned to accessible voting centers during business hours.

If you aren’t registered to vote in Washington, you have until July 28 to do so. You need to visit your county elections office to register in person.

The Top 2 system, since adopted by California voters and explored by other states, was approved by citizen initiative in 2004 after the Supreme Court tossed out the old “blanket” primary.  The political parties sued. Ultimately, the high court in 2008 upheld Top 2, saying that as implemented in Washington state, it does not infringe on the parties’ constitutional rights.  This will be the seventh running of the Top 2 here.

WA voters pick their Primary favorites ?>

WA voters pick their Primary favorites


Washington voters have narrowed the field for the General Election, including the hotly contested race for Seattle Mayor, three special state Senate races and literally hundreds of important local offices.

By Wednesday midday, counties had tallied over 660,000 ballots after carefully verifying the voter signatures. That amounted to 20.5 percent of those who received ballots, a number sure to increase as Tuesday evening’s drop-box ballots and those still in the mail are added in. Washington’s election law allows any ballot with a Tuesday postmark, from anywhere on the globe, to be counted. Most will come in this week, but some will trickle in next week, as well, particularly the military and overseas ballots. The state Elections Division had forecast a 30 percent return rate once all eligible ballots are counted.

County canvassing boards must certify their returns by Aug. 20. Secretary of State Kim Wyman will have until Aug. 23 to certify the election.

Wyman said the 30 percent turnout is the historic average for the odd-year election that follows the presidential/governor election year. She had promoted the election, noting that local government offices such as ports, mayors, councils and school boards, have a tangible impact on a voter’s quality of life. She added:

“I would certainly expect a healthy turnout in the General Election, when final decisions will be made about who will represent us and serve our communities for the coming years. In the fall, we will also be voting on two statewide initiatives (GMO labeling of foods, I-522, and Tim Eyman’s ‘initiative on initiatives,’ I-517), and five tax advisory votes. Seattle and other cities will elect mayors and council members and some counties also have county council and executive races.”

This year’s Primary included a hard-fought contest for Seattle Mayor, with incumbent Mike McGinn surviving to move on to the General Election. He finished second, however, to Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray, best known around the state for his 18 years as a legislative leader and for his sponsorship of gay-rights measures, including the successful R-74 campaign last fall to authorize same-sex marriage.  Murray and his partner plan to marry soon.  McGinn’s challengers collectively had 73 percent of the vote Tuesday night.

In a closely watched state Senate race in the 26th District, the appointed Democratic incumbent, Nathan Schlicher, was finishing well behind Republican state Rep. Jan Angel.  Republicans are hoping to pad their narrow hold on the Senate coalition that runs the upper chamber. The House is Democratic and freshman Gov. Jay Inslee is, too.

In an interesting twist made possible by voter approval of the Top 2 Primary system for partisan office, two Republicans advanced to the finals for two Eastern Washington state Senate seats.  In neither district did Democrats field a candidate. The appointed Republican incumbents, Sharon Brown in the 8th and John Smith in the 7th, finished well ahead of their closest challengers.

Lawmakers OK General Election for judges, SPI Top 2 ?>

Lawmakers OK General Election for judges, SPI Top 2


The Legislature has sent Gov. Jay Inslee a Top 2 elections bill that requires the two primary favorites for each race for Supreme Court, Appeals Court, Superior Court and  state school superintendent to advance to the General Election ballot.

Currently it is possible for judges and SPI to prevail in the primary by getting more than 50 percent, with the victor going alone to the General Election ballot. This happened last fall in some judicial races and in Randy Dorn’s re-election bid as SPI.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who strongly supported the bill, called it an excellent improvement of the elections process, allowing a final vote between the two primary favorites in the judicial and SPI races in the General Election, when voter turnout and media attention are considerably heavier. She added:

“It makes good sense. This is a smart improvement for the voters of Washington, and I salute our legislators for putting more emphasis on our important judicial races and our state school superintendent.”

House Bill 1474, prime sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, originally passed the House 97-0 on March 7 and cleared the Senate last week 37-9. On Monday, House concurred in a Senate amendment and passed the bill 95-0. Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the bill.

Long battle for Top 2 Primary officially over ?>

Long battle for Top 2 Primary officially over

Gov. Jay Inslee signs SB 5518.

(Photo courtesy of Legislative Support Services, Photo Department)

It was a quiet, noncontroversial ending to a 12-year legal, legislative and ballot-box battle to preserve a wide-open primary system for Washington voters. The fight had involved the political parties, the highest court in the land, and even a detour through California.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5518 to clear the state law books of all references to the much-maligned Pick-a-Party system that voters were required to use in 2004 through 2007 while litigation raged.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her predecessor, Sam Reed, and officials of the State Grange watched happily as the new law was signed, leaving the voter-approved, court-blessed Top 2 Primary as THE system for Washington.

Reed, who worked with the Grange on a successful citizen Top 2 initiative in 2004, said the bill-signing was great closure to his 12-year battle. Wyman agreed, saying the state’s primary system squares perfectly with the state’s ticket-splitting, independent-minded political tradition.

Senate sponsors, Pam Roach of Auburn and Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma, attended the signing ceremony at the Capitol. House sponsors included Reps. Sam Hunt of Olympia, David Taylor of Moxee and Vincent Buys of Lynden.

The story actually began in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a “blanket primary,” pioneered by Washington state back in 1935, was unconstitutional because it allowed voters to cross party lines and vote for their (more…)

After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell ?>

After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell

Sam speaks to 2013 Senate

(Photo courtesy of  Legislative Support Services Photography)

Secretary of State Sam Reed bade a fond farewell to the people of Washington Tuesday after 45 years in public life, including 35 years as a state and county elected official.

Addressing a joint session of the Legislature, Reed brought along a special reminder of his family’s long connection to Washington politics and government — his grandfather Sam Sumner’s battered leather briefcase.  Exactly 100 years earlier, Sumner, a state GOP chairman and longtime party leader, was sworn in as a state House member, beginning a legacy of public service that would extend to Reed’s career and love of politics and government decades later.

“Politics is, and should be, a noble calling,” Reed said in his well-received remarks.  He added:

“It has been an amazing ride for Margie and me. Nearly a lifetime ago, it seems, we came to Olympia from the apple orchards and the Palouse of Eastern Washington to teach and to serve in government. We stayed to raise our family here and to heed the call the service. On our hardest days, we never regretted that decision.

“My heart is full as this Wenatchee boy reflects on the opportunity to be of service and to work … to make Washington a better, more responsive and just government worthy of her people. Whenever we saw a problem to fix or an opportunity to grasp, we went to work. In our better moments, we worked collaboratively, across the aisle, with common purpose and with civility.”

Among the highlights Reed mentioned were:

  1. Saving the State Library.
  2. Creating the nation’s first ground-up Digital Archives.
  3. Restoring confidence in the elections process after the closest governor’s race in America, fighting for the Top 2 Primary and other reforms and improvements in the elections process.
  4. Ramping up service to job-creating companies.
  5. Honoring our history and promoting a new State Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus to house the Archives and State Library and make public records, books and history accessible to the public.

In closing, Reed said:

“Although I am leaving public life, I am not leaving public service. I expect to be deeply engaged as a volunteer, working and mentoring as a private citizen on my signature issues of civility, bipartisanship and moderation.”

The joint session also heard Gov. Chris Gregoire’s optimistic and sweeping State of the State Address recapping her eight years in office and her thoughts about the future.  The gathering also heard farewell remarks from Attorney General Rob McKenna, who succeeded Gregoire at the helm of the 1,100-member AG staff and who lost to Democrat Jay Inslee for Governor in November.  And outgoing Brian Sonntag, the veteran State Auditor, also gave well-received and emotional farewell comments.  The proceedings were broadcast live and archived by TVW.


Romney-Ryan ticket cleared for WA ballot ?>

Romney-Ryan ticket cleared for WA ballot

The Romney-Ryan ticket has been given a green light to appear on the Washington state ballot in the fall.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee, in a ruling handed down from the bench after brief oral arguments Thursday, rejected a challenge brought by the Libertarian Party of Washington.

The Libertarians had argued that the Republicans of Washington lapsed into minority status by not getting 5 percent of the 2010 statewide vote with a “nominated” candidate for U.S. Senate. The GOP state convention did not take up a nomination vote that year because Dino Rossi and Clint Didier were still locked in a spirited contest for Republican support. Rossi later won the Top 2 Primary, along with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and lost to her that fall. The vote was Murray 52 percent and Rossi 48.

Libertarian attorney J. Mills of Tacoma had sought to keep the Romney-Ryan ticket off the ballot this fall, saying they had failed to hold in-state nominating conventions, along with six other minor parties, this summer.

Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed, said the statute cited by Mills had been rendered inoperative by the subsequent voter approval of the Top 2 Primary system, which does not “nominate” finalists for the November ballot, but rather winnows the field for each office down to two.  In this particular case, the state election code made it clear that the 2008 presidential vote in Washington was what gave the Republican Party majority status, the state said.

McPhee said that argument was persuasive, and that 2008 was the appropriate marker for determining if a party has majority status. In that election, the McCain-Palin ticket got 40.48 percent of the vote, to the Obama-Biden ticket’s 57.65 percent.

Libertarians apparently will not appeal.

The state soon will send the Voters’ Pamphlet to the printer’s and will certify to the counties the names that must appear on their ballots.  Six minor party tickets already are certified and the Democratic and Republican tickets are to be added automatically once their nominating conventions are held and proper paperwork is submitted.

Secretary of State Sam Reed hailed today’s ruling, saying the state Elections Division had correctly read elections law, including the changes wrought by the change in primary systems and the whole notion of nominations, which are done by the parties under their own rules. He also noted that the parties’ unsuccessful lawsuits against the voter-approved Top 2 system had resulted in court opinions that  explicitly said the laws dealing with the old Pick-a-Party Primary statutes were superseded. In the current controversy, 2008 was the correct benchmark for determining majority party status, he said.

The lawsuit also named the state Republican Party as a defendant, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Romney campaign in Washington. The case number is 12-2-01683-3.


Don’t forget to vote in Primary! ?>

Don’t forget to vote in Primary!

(Pierce County elections workers process Primary Election ballots that were returned.)

After weeks of media stories, editorials and campaign ads and mailings, it’s finally here: P-Day, better known as Primary Election Day here in Washington.

Thanks to our state’s vote-by-mail system, Washington voters have had a fortnight to ponder, fill out and return their ballot before Tuesday’s 8 p.m. deadline.

Well, ponder no more. Your ballots are due. If you haven’t returned your ballot yet, do it before it’s too late.

So far, many voters have been taking their time to return their ballot.  Secretary Reed predicted a 46 percent turnout for the Primary, slightly higher than normal for a presidential- election-year Primary. Some expect there will be a last-day barrage of returned ballots.

If you haven’t voted and returned your ballot yet, Secretary Reed suggests that you put it in a ballot drop box provided by your county, or to bring it to your county elections office. Go here to find out where your county elections office is located and where it has ballot drop boxes.  Don’t forget that you have until 8 tonight to do this! We also recommend that you don’t mail in your ballot today because it may not be postmarked today. We want your vote to count.

There are many high-profile and important races in the Primary, including:
• Governor, highlighted by the preliminary battle between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.
• Three other open statewide offices – Secretary of State, Attorney General and State Auditor.
• U.S. Senate, topped by Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell and Republican challenger Michael Baumgartner.
• All 10 U.S. House seats, including the hypercompetitive race in the 1st Congressional District and the new 10th CD.
• All 98 seats in the state House of Representatives and about half of the state Senate seats.

(San Juan County Auditor Milene Henley picks up a batch of ballots on Lopez and Orcas islands to take back to her office for processing.)

Under Washington’s Top 2 Primary system, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, advance to the General Election this fall.

It’s important to note that judicial races (including three State Supreme Court contests) and the election for Superintendent of Public Instruction are not affected by the rules of the Top 2 Primary, so if a candidate in any of those races receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the Primary, he or she will be the only candidate to appear on the General Election ballot for that race.