Secretary of State Sam Reed is urging a strong turnout for Washington's voter-created Top 2 Primary, which offers voters a chance to choose finalists for Governor, U.S. Congress, the Legislature and a myriad of state and local offices.
Tuesday, Aug. 7, is the deadline for mail ballots to be postmarked or placed in county election drop-boxes.
"This is one of those watershed election years, and the action begins with the primary," Reed said. "This is one of the most interesting election seasons in years. We encourage every registered voter, even the busiest people and those of us who are glued to the Olympics coverage, to take part. It's our duty and our privilege."
In some judicial races, and potentially the state's top education post as well, the primary will be decisive, with special rules allowing a candidate who gets 50 percent-plus-one to be elected outright or advance alone to the General Election ballot.
Party precinct committee officers will also be elected in the primary.
For partisan races and local government offices the Top 2 Primary is a winnowing process that allows voters to pick their favorite for each office, without regard to party preference, with the two highest vote-getters advancing to the Nov. 6 General Election.
Since 2008 the state has used a Top 2 process in which no party is guaranteed a November election slot.
In Washington, voters do not register by party and all registered voters are welcome to take part in the Top 2 Primary.
This is the first presidential-year primary that is being conducted by mail, with county voting centers available to persons with disabilities and other voters. Washington no longer has traditional poll-site voting.
This is also the earliest primary in modern times. At the request of Reed and county auditors, the primary was moved earlier in August to accommodate military and overseas voters, in keeping with new federal law that requires their ballots go out at least 45 days before the election.
Tuesday is called Primary Day, but it really is the deadline to have mail ballots postmarked or deposited in a county drop-box.
Counties have until Tuesday, Aug. 21, two weeks, to certify the results and the Secretary of State will have three days after that to certify.
Overseas and military ballots for the General Election must go out by Sept. 22, less than a month after certification of the primary. General ballots will go out by Oct. 19, with a Nov. 6 postmark or drop-box return deadline.
Results will be posted online at www.vote.wa.gov and are accessible by smart-phone apps.
Not on the primary ballot are two of the biggest draws: the White House and an assortment of ballot measures, including same-sex marriage, marijuana, charter schools, two constitutional amendments and Tim Eyman's supermajority-for-taxes redux and two first-ever tax advisory votes.