State’s top elections official urges strong turnout for caucuses
March 1, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 12:15 p.m. March 1, 2012
The top elections official in Washington, Secretary of State Sam Reed, urged a strong turnout in the upcoming presidential caucuses.
The caucuses start Saturday, as Republicans gather to choose a challenger — from a field of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — for President Barack Obama.
The local GOP set up caucus locations at numerous sites in Issaquah and the surrounding area.
Democrats plan to gather for caucuses April 15, though Obama does not face a challenge for the nomination.
“We have received a good deal of attention from the candidates and our state will have an impact on the course of the nominating season,” Reed said in a statement. “A large number of delegates will be at stake this spring in Washington, the second-largest state in the West. Our Republican caucuses are very early on the elections calendar, coming on the heels of Arizona and Michigan and just ahead of the Super Tuesday.”
Republicans predicted up to 60,000 participants in the caucuses. The state is sliced into about 6,700 precincts. Residents gather for caucuses depending on precinct location.
Caucusgoers sign a roster indicating a top choice for a presidential candidate. Organizers then combine candidate preferences into a statewide nonbinding straw poll. State GOP leaders plan to release the poll results at the end of the day.
In late May and early June, at the state GOP convention in Tacoma, the party elects delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Caucusgoers can also run for delegate to county conventions. Republicans choose state convention delegates at county conventions. King County also holds legislative district caucuses.
State legislators suspended the 2012 presidential primary in order to save the cash-strapped state about $10 million, although the primary generated more interest among voters. The primary is scheduled to resume in 2016.
In 2008, fewer than 100,000 people participated in caucuses statewide, but 1.4 million voters cast ballots in the primary.
“I always worry when some are cut out of the process, such as those serving overseas in the military or working or confined to their homes,” Reed said. “But the traditional caucuses are the option we have before us, and I certainly encourage all registered voters to take part if they’re able. The caucuses are educational and interesting, so even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I strongly encourage people to attend their Republican or Democratic caucus this year.”