Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman says she won’t vote in the state’s March 10 presidential primary because of ballots requiring partisan declarations.
The state’s top elections official says her office has been getting bombarded with complaints about the lack of options for voters who want to participate in the primary — but don’t want to publicly affiliate with either the Republican or Democratic parties.
“Our phones are lighting up. Every four years it’s exactly the same,” she said in an interview Monday.
Although Wyman says she’s not urging others to abstain from voting, she sympathizes with people who are reluctant to participate, for personal or professional reasons, because of the primary rules.
Unlike other elections in Washington, the presidential primary requires voters to sign a declaration stating they consider themselves Republicans or Democrats for the purpose of the election. That information is given to the parties and is held by elections officials for 60 days. It is considered public information and can be obtained by other groups.
As a Republican elected official, Wyman’s partisan status has long been known. But she has avoided endorsing President Donald Trump or any other presidential candidates, saying she wants to preserve her neutrality as an election administrator.
She has voted in past presidential primaries, which also included partisan declarations, but she says this year is different because Trump is the only candidate on the Republican ballot. (In 2016 there were four Republicans on the ballot.)
In some past years, the state offered an “unaffiliated” ballot, allowing voters to pick candidates from any party in the presidential primary, without disclosing a party preference. In 2000, more than 500,000 voters chose the unaffiliated option, even though the parties didn’t count those results in their nominating contests. The Legislature removed the unaffiliated option that year.
Bills backed by Wyman to restore an unaffiliated primary ballot have repeatedly failed, most recently in 2019.
Wyman says she doesn’t want to break up her perfect streak of voting (a streak verified by state records). But she doesn’t feel right about signing the party declaration — and she said she wishes the Legislature would reconsider providing an unaffiliated ballot. She said she may try to send in a ballot anyway without signing the partisan declaration, knowing it won’t count.
“It’s a protest vote at this point,” she said.
Wyman first announced her decision to not participate in the primary in an interview Monday with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.