Two chances to choose presidential nominees

"Don't think you're off the hook once that presidential primary ballot is in the mail. In a matter of weeks, it will be time to head down to the party caucuses and vote for president all over again.Apparently, anything worth doing once is worth doing twice in Washington.The primary election, which ends with the polls closing on Feb. 29, is a fairly new development in Washington and coexists with the state's longer history of selecting national convention delegates via the caucus process.The primary acts mostly to test the water for presidential hopefuls, a sort of peek into the Washington political temperament prior the caucuses. By the end of last week, the Kitsap County Auditor's office had received back 10,366 of the 70,340 absentee ballots it sent out for the primary. Injected in the Washington political process in the early 1990s, the presidential primaries have not been well received by the existing party structures.For example, the Democrats won't use the primary for delegate selection at all.For the Democrat portion of the primary, it makes it, in essence, a beauty contest. It's an expression of preference from the voters but won't have impact for the convention, said Russ Hartman, the chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Kitsap County.The Republicans will use the primary election results to select one third of its delegates statewide. But Kitsap County Republican Party Vice Chair Margie Crowell said they will not consider the votes of any of the unaffiliated ballots.In order to have your ballot count toward the Republican delegate selection process, you have to swear to being a Republican. All of the people voting for Republicans via the independent ballot should expect to see their vote going the same way as the Democrats: to instruct presidential hopefuls on the current mood of the Washington citizenry, but not toward delegate selection.Democrats ask for the same oath in order to use their ballot, even though the primary ballot doesn't count toward delegates.Democrats will start selecting delegates at their precinct caucuses on March 7. That gets the ball rolling toward the national convention and gives Washingtonians one more chance to cast a ballot before November.Republicans hold their precinct caucuses the same day."

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