Pierce County auditor answers questions about Aug. 7 primary election

If you have questions about the upcoming primary election, you're not alone.

Aug. 7 is Election Day. On July 12 every household will be mailed a Pierce County Official Local Voters' Pamphlet. On July 20 the Auditor will mail a primary ballot to all registered voters (military and overseas voters were mailed on June 22). The pamphlet and the ballot always prompt questions.

"We've worked so hard to educate voters about the Top 2 Primary, but they are sometimes confused when an election doesn't seem to follow that pattern,” says Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. "Some primary election races have only two candidates, so you wouldn't expect them to be in the primary, just in the general run-off. But there they are on the ballot."

This year, the Election Center has already fielded many calls about local and state positions, nonpartisan and partisan races. And, of course, the special – and sometimes confusing – rules for judges.

"Here are some of the most common questions we hear," according to Anderson.

Q: Why do races with only one or two candidates appear on my primary ballot?

A: The law requires us to place partisan races on the primary ballot. No one wins in the primary election; the same candidates will appear again on the general election ballot.

Q: Where is the race for Sheriff? Why isn't that race on my primary ballot?

A: The Sheriff is a nonpartisan position. Partisan and nonpartisan offices are treated differently. Only one candidate filed, so this office will appear on the general election ballot.

Q: Why are some judges on the primary ballot but not others?

A: The rules can be confusing because there are different rules for different levels of the judiciary.

  • Superior Court – Superior Court races with two or more candidates are on your primary ballot. If one of those candidates gets a majority of the votes, that candidate is elected and will not appear on the general election ballot. If only one candidate filed in a Superior Court race, that candidate was considered elected. Those candidates will not appear on any ballot this year.

  • Supreme Court and Court of Appeals – No matter the number of candidates, these races will be on the primary ballot. If one candidate gets a majority of the vote in the primary election, only that candidate will be on the general election ballot. If there is only one candidate in the race, that candidate will be on the primary and the general election ballot.

Q: Where is the president?

A: The presidential candidates will appear on the general election ballot. Typically, Washington State holds a presidential preference primary every four years in the spring. In a presidential preference primary you declare your party and vote for your top choice among the field of partisan presidential candidates. Sometimes the parties use those results to select their nominee. Sometimes they do not. This year, to save money, the Washington State Legislature eliminated the presidential preference primary. Voters that wanted to help select the nominee participated at a caucus in March.

Q: Petition signature gatherers have been all over town but the initiatives are not on the primary ballot. Why?

A: All initiatives and referenda that receive enough valid signatures will be on the general election ballot. Signature gatherers had until June 6 to submit signatures for a referendum and until July 6 for initiatives. The Secretary of State will certify the measures by Aug. 24.

Q: What is a Top 2 Primary?

A: Washington's Top 2 Primary allows you to vote for whomever you want in the primary election regardless of their party affiliation. There may be two candidates from the same party on the general election ballot. The two candidates with the most votes move on to the general election regardless of their party affiliation.

Q: What does the candidate's "party preference" mean in a Top 2 Primary?

A: Each candidate for partisan office can state a political party that he or she prefers, but that candidate's preference does not mean that the candidate was nominated or endorsed by the party.

Q: Is it too late to register to vote?

A: No, it is not too late. To vote in the primary election on Aug. 7, you can register online through July 9. You can also change your address online. Visit www.piercecountywa.org/elections.

New voters have until July 30 to register. If you are a new voter in Washington (just turned 18, recently moved to the area, or have never registered before), you can register IN PERSON through July 30. You have to register in person at the Pierce County Elections Center, 2501 S. 35th St., Tacoma WA 98409. 

The deadline to register or change your address for the general election is Oct. 8. New voters can register in person for the general election through Oct. 29 but don't wait until the last minute. Avoid the long lines and register online now.


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