The Democratic presidential field is shrinking fast, but Washington’s March 10 primary ballot will not.
Thirteen Democratic candidates, including eight who have dropped out, remain on the ballot — a roster finalized in January so ballots could be mailed early to military and overseas voters.
On Monday, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg became the latest to fold, joining other erstwhile candidates such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who will undoubtedly still receive a slice of votes here despite having ended their bids for the Democratic nomination.
As of Monday evening, more than 830,000 voters already had sent in their primary ballots in Washington — about 18% of the state’s registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Of those, about 440,000 voted in the Democratic primary.
Voters who decided early don’t get a do-over.
“Once you cast a ballot, there’s no getting that back,” said Halei Watkins, a spokeswoman for King County Elections.
It’s not clear where supporters of Buttigieg and Klobuchar will shift their support.
Jeanne Acutanza, volunteer events coordinator for the Buttigieg campaign in Washington, said that like many backers, she already voted.
“We threw ourselves in fully. Of course, we’re heartbroken, but we’re still his fans, and looking forward to seeing what he’ll do next,” she said. “I think it’s still important to have shown we supported him.”
Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, the eve of Super Tuesday primaries, traveling to Texas to offer their backing.
Acutanza said she expected many supporters would follow suit, while ultimately backing the Democratic nominee in November.
Buttigieg had planned a town hall event in Seattle on Friday and had opened a campaign office in Seattle last weekend, with Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott speaking in support of him. He’d previously held a series of private fundraisers in the Seattle area.
Klobuchar had no visible campaign presence in Washington, but was endorsed by the editorial board of The Seattle Times. (The editorial board is separate from the newsroom, which plays no role in such endorsements.) Her sole visit to Washington came last September, when she spoke at a Seattle coffeehouse and attended a fundraiser co-hosted by Microsoft president Brad Smith.
Of the remaining Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have built the most robust volunteer organizations in Washington, and both held big rallies here last month, with Sanders drawing 17,000 to the Tacoma Dome and Warren speaking to 7,000 at the Seattle Center Armory.
Billionaire ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tapped his personal wealth to blanket the Seattle market with TV ads, hire 50-plus campaign staffers and open seven field offices across the state.
Biden retains big name-identification and has been endorsed by former Gov. Gary Locke and others, but has not fielded a noticeable campaign operation in the state with a week to go before the primary. He has yet to hold a public rally here and last visited for a pair of high-dollar fundraisers in November, including one at the home of Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky.
The Democratic candidate field could be further winnowed on Super Tuesday this week, when 14 states and one U.S. territory will hold nominating contests, including the big prizes of Texas and California.
A poll last month of 404 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted by Elway Research for Crosscut, a Seattle online news organization, found the race here up in the air, with 22% undecided, 21% of voters supporting Sanders, and 15% for Bloomberg.
The poll, which had a 5 percentage point margin of error, found Warren, Klobuchar, Biden and Buttigieg essentially tied with between 9% and 11% support each.
Washington’s March 10 primary has caused some public angst because of rules requiring voters to declare a preference for the Democratic or Republican Party on the outside of the ballot envelope.
Of the ballots in as of Monday, nearly 440,000 came in the Democratic race, while about 350,000 picked the Republican ballot, which lists only President Donald Trump.
Whether out of protest or error, about 42,000 voters did not select a party preference, which could mean their ballots are invalidated. County elections officials say they set aside such envelopes unopened and notify voters to give them a chance to fix the problem.
In King County, voters have until March 19, when the results are certified, to properly pick a party and sign the ballot envelope, Watkins said. But voters cannot change their vote from one candidate to another. Once the ballot is marked — it’s final.