Requirement to declare party affiliation on primary ballot raising privacy concerns

According to the information sheet mailed with all ballots for the upcoming March 10 presidential primary, voters must declare a party affiliation for their vote to count.

Are you planning to vote in the March 10 Washington State Presidential primary?

Do you consider yourself Democrat, Republican or Independent – and (here’s the kicker) do you care who knows?

Ballots were mailed last week, and by now they should have been received by all registered voters.  According to the information provided with the ballots, if you want your vote to count you must declare your party affiliation as either Republican or Democrat.  No, you can’t leave it blank, and there’s no option to declare as an independent.

The ballot return envelope provides checkboxes to designate party affiliation.  Voters must check one or the other, declaring themselves either a Republican or a Democrat, and by so doing further declare they “will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2020 Presidential election.” The ballot information goes on to explain the reason is that “the major political parties require voters to mark a party box.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski explained that the “rules for both the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee require state parties who use primaries to award delegates to their national conventions to certify that the voters participating in their primaries are members of that party.  In states like Washington where party registration is not public record, party affiliation declarations for the limited purpose of complying with these rules [emphasis hers] are used to make sure the choices made by the voters are part of the nomination process.”

This is raising privacy concerns for many across the state from Main Street to the Capitol.

According to an article from our online news partner The Seattle Times , the Washington Secretary of State’s office has been “bombarded” with inquiries from voters who want to participate in the primary election, but do not want to declare party affiliation, and that Secretary Wyman herself has publicly declared that she will not vote in the primary because of this (Wyman ran and was elected as a Republican). The article goes on to say that the information voters provide about party affiliation “is given to the parties and is held by elections officials for 60 days. It is considered public information…”

Podlodowski criticizes Wyman for her decision not to vote saying, “Secretary Wyman can try to run from her and her party’s support for Donald Trump, but she can’t hide from her affiliation…simply by not voting.”

Regarding keeping the party affiliation of voters private, Podlodowski’s statement went on to say that “we at the Washington State Democratic Party have recognized that Washingtonians as a rule prefer to keep their party affiliation private, which is why we worked closely with the legislature in 2019 to ensure that public release of this information was not mandated by the legislation that reformed Washington’s presidential primary to be in compliance with DNC rules and moved our primary much earlier in the Democratic nomination process.”

Signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 14, 2019, the legislation states that “Voters who subscribe to a specific political party declaration under this section may only vote for a candidate of that party. Each list of candidates on ballots must be readily distinguishable from the list of candidates for any other party. Votes cast by persons making these declarations must be tabulated and reported separately from other votes cast at the primary and may be used by a major political party in its allocation of delegates under the rules of that party.”  See the full text of the legislation as signed by the governor here and the pertinent RCW here.

While the law does not mandate release of this information, under the Washington State Public Records Act (RCW 42.56), party affiliation declarations made on the ballot (unlike political party registration) become part of the public record and as such are freely available to anyone who files a request.

— By Larry Vogel

13 Replies to “Requirement to declare party affiliation on primary ballot raising privacy concerns”

  1. It seems like we must have an abundance of paranoid people in this state. Perhaps I’m naive, but I really do not care who knows which party I choose.


    1. What you put down on the outside of the envelop determines if Melania Trump sends you a letter or someone from the Dem party jots down a note of two.


  2. Delegate binding to the Primaries is how Trump won the nomination unopposed. Delegate binding will be how Bernie splits the DNC into two parties; Communist and Blue Dog Democrat. This is the last chance the super-delegates have.

    I was a Ron Paul delegate to conventions twice, and this is really prophetic.

    There shouldn’t even be a primary election.


  3. With our local elections, some party-affiliated races end up with two Democrats on the final ballot. Because the US Presidential election does not work that way and the Republican candidate is already certain, it seems there is little disincentive to prevent anyone (and everyone) from declaring and voting Democrat in this primary since they are not obligated to vote for the same party in the general election.


    1. If my gender can be non-binary, and I can use any bathroom I want, in theory my part affiliation can be non-binary too and I can vote in both Primaries.

      I agree with that, but there is no Independent Primary. It’s the Democratic and Republican Primary, and declaring your party would [in theory] prevent Republicans from voting in the Democrat’s primary. Normally there’s more than one Republican on the ticket and we wouldn’t want to waste a vote. However, because Donald Trump will win hands-down (perhaps unopposed), Trump supporters could troll the WA Dem Primary by voting for Warren. Why not? They wont be wasting a Republican Primary vote. The primaries will cost tens of millions of dollars. It’s welfare to the Democrats and Republicans. If I were governor, I’d make them pay for their own primaries.


  4. I have a vote. I want it private. I don’t want my mailman or whomever to decide where my vote may end up. THats why they call it private. I would rather go back to casting my vote at a voting booth. I live in Washington state where votes have been “lost” and miraculously “found.” Paranoid no…smart ..yes.


    1. I’m the opposite. I think all public voting should be public. I’ve pointed out in other threads that accountability is a good thing in all things except voting. Makes no sense to me. Sovereign Citizens argue that traveling should be anonymous, and they don’t get license plates on their cars.


    2. Just to clarify, your vote is still private. Nobody knows which candidate you checked on the ballot sealed in the envelope. The only thing public is whether you checked the Democratic or Republican box on the back of that envelope.


      1. You’re right Roger. The purpose is just to prevent people from voting in both party primaries. It’s private. I donated money to AOC just to see her get elected, a form of sabotage. As a Republican, I’d vote democrat to sabotage their primary too, but I don’t know who would be the worst. Berni will be dominant regardless.


  5. Republicans can declare as Democrats in the Primary and vote for who they think their beloved Trump can most easily beat in the General. Of course, they will soon start getting many requests for money from the Democratic party which will probably become quite irritating. It’s all good.


  6. In today’s aggressive social media climate, selecting a party for the primary guarantees months of get-out-the-vote emails and FB ads, a nuisance. I strongly disagree with passing this info to the parties since 45% of Americans describe themselves as Independent. However for the ability to influence one of the party conventions I consider the annoyance worth it. History has proven that silence is not a good idea.


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