— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) March 22, 2016
Washington’s Democratic presidential caucuses are Saturday. Both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns have been ramping up their local organizing efforts around Capitol Hill, and the two candidates made stops in Seattle during the week (with Sanders back in town). But do you — a potential Democratic voter — know where to go and what to do on caucus day?
Nothing starts at caucus sites until 10:00 on Saturday, so you won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. But you may want to arrive earlier — like closer to 9:00 or even 8:30 –depending on whether or not you’ve done some caucus preparation, like finding your precinct caucus location online and printing and filling out a one page form with your candidate preference, basic information, and signature to bring to the caucus site. If you don’t do this beforehand, you’ll have to wait in a line to get registered.
“People who don’t have their forms filled out will have to stand in line,” said James Apa, chair of the 43rd District Democrats. “From 9:30 to 10:30 it’s all about people getting their forms, filling them out, and handing them in. But people who don’t have their forms filled out will have to stand in line.”
In addition, if you bring your form beforehand, you can drop it off at your caucus site, leave, and still have your vote count. You just won’t be able to switch your stated preferred candidate during the caucus process. If you missed last Friday’s deadline to file your surrogate affidavit form, this might be your way out.
Apa doesn’t have a exact time estimate for how long the caucuses will last, if you choose to stay, but definitely plan for longer than one hour. “We want to get in and out in a reasonable time frame,” he said. “The state party has an interest in both local and East Coast media getting the results on the evening news.” Apa added that both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have been training their own precinct committee officers to attend caucuses—the folks who will be leading individual precinct caucuses—which may speed up the process for precincts lacking in PCOs.
Capitol Hill and First Hill precinct caucus locations include Lowell Elementary School, the Century Ballroom, Town Hall Seattle, and Miller Community Center.
Though Washington is in a virtual polling black hole — local political consultant Ben Anderson with Progressive Strategies Northwest said that pollsters, fearing inaccurate results, generally don’t poll caucus states due to the lower and less predictable portion of broader electorate — it’s no secret that the state (and Seattle) will most definitely go for Sanders.
“The best metric out there is looking at state demographics, donor levels,” he said. By that rubric Sanders is going to sweep on Saturday. Washington is very white—Sanders’ base is also very white—and both Seattle and Washington as a whole are making it rain on the Vermont senator in donations.
Sanders, who already drew huge crowds on Sunday for his Key Arena rally, is coming back Friday night for a show-of-force rally at Safeco Field which has a over 50,000 person capacity. Washington is part of the Sanders campaign’s last ditch strategy to rack up huge margins in west coast states like Washington, Oregon, and California—along with the already won Idaho and Utah—to catch up to Clinton’s 300 plus lead in pledged delegates.
The Washington Clinton camp didn’t respond to requests for comment about their seemingly poor chances in the state. At Tuesday night’s rally at Rainier Beach High School, Clinton gave a slight nod to this reality. “I am well aware that we need to work hard between now and Saturday to convince people in WA,” she said.
For any caucus veterans, feel free to weigh in with more advice for newbies in the comments.
For more on the process, here’s how Seattle picks a president.