AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Washington state's presidential primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — If former President Donald Trump clinches the Republican nomination on Tuesday for a second term in the White House, it may be primary voters in Washington state who put him over the top.

Trump won hundreds of delegates on Super Tuesday, putting him within reach of locking up his party’s nod for a third time. But he’ll need the bulk of the 161 delegates at stake in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi and Washington to close the deal. Polls close first in Georgia and Mississippi, but their combined 99 delegates likely won’t be enough, so the task may fall to the 43 delegate slots in Washington. His biggest obstacle on Tuesday won’t be former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who ended her nomination bid this week, but may instead be Washington’s history of relatively slow vote counting. In the 2022 midterm primaries, a little more than half the vote had been tabulated by 1 a.m. EDT.

President Joe Biden is on the Democratic primary ballot. He faces self−help author Marianne Williamson, whose on−again, off−again campaign has not had much of an impact on the vote totals of previous contests this year. He also faces the “Uncommitted” ballot option, which received enough protest votes in Michigan, Minnesota and Hawaii to win delegates. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota dropped out of the race this week, but his name still appears on the ballot.

The earliest Biden can clinch his party’s nomination is March 19.

Washington holds its primary by mail. Voters will need to read the fine print closely as both the Republican and Democratic presidential contests appear on the same ballot side by side. Voters may only cast a vote in one race, and any ballot on which votes are cast in both contests will be invalidated.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:


The Washington presidential primary will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 11 p.m. ET.


The Associated Press will provide coverage for the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. The options on the Democratic ballot are Biden, Phillips, Williamson and “Uncommitted.” The Republican candidates include Trump, Haley and former candidates Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.


Registered voters may participate in either primary but may not vote in both primaries. All registered voters are sent a ballot by mail after Feb. 23. Voters in Washington do not register by party, but for the presidential primary only, they must mark and sign a party declaration statement on the return envelope. The party marked on the envelope must match the party of the candidate the voter selected on the ballot, otherwise the vote will be invalidated.


There are 92 pledged Democratic delegates at stake in Washington, and they’re awarded according to the national party’s standard rules. Twenty at−large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as are 12 PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The state’s 10 congressional districts have a combined 60 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any statewide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.

Washington has 43 Republican delegates at stake in the primary. All 13 statewide delegates are awarded to the candidate who receives a majority of the statewide vote. If no candidate receives a statewide vote majority, the statewide delegates are awarded in proportion to the statewide vote to candidates who receive at least 20%. A combined 30 delegates are at stake in 10 congressional districts, with three delegates per district. The candidate who wins a majority of the vote in a district wins that district’s three delegates. If no candidate wins a vote majority in a district, the district delegates are awarded in proportion to the district−level vote among the candidates who received at least 20% in that district.


Tuesday’s primaries in Washington are not likely to be competitive, as Biden and Trump face no major opposition in their campaigns for renomination. In both races, the first indications that Biden and Trump are winning statewide on a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held so far this year may be sufficient to determine the statewide winners.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.


Turnout in 2020 was about 33% of registered voters in the Democratic presidential primary and about 14% in the Republican primary. The number of registered voters at that time was just shy of 4.8 million. In 2024, there are just shy of 4.9 million.

As of Wednesday, more than 887,000 ballots had been cast before Election Day, 51% in the Democratic primary and 49% in the Republican primary. Since Washington conducts its voting by mail, the comparisons of pre−Election Day voting to Election Day voting don’t apply.


In the 2022 U.S. Senate primary, the AP first reported results at 11:08 p.m. ET, or eight minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 1:17 a.m. ET with about 54% of total votes counted.


As of Tuesday, there will be 125 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, 160 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 238 until the November general election.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election−2024.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press

Photo: AP