Washington Democrats are predicting strong turnout at the party caucuses this Saturday. They chalk it up to innovations in getting voters involved and the whirlwind of visits from presidential candidates.
The party expects about a quarter of a million voters to go to their local precinct caucuses at 10 a.m. There, they'll support a presidential candidate and select delegates at the first step in the caucus system.
“We were lucky this year – the wave has not broken, we have not seen a nominee selected,” said state Democratic Party chair Jaxon Ravens.
He says this year’s vigorous contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has created lots of energy ahead of the caucuses.
One indicator is the number of voters who have already pre-registered through the state party website — kind of like online check-in for an airline flight. Ravens says it will speed things up.
“No lines, you just go straight there, it saves you a lot of time," he said. "Now we’ve had about 100,000 people use that pre-check system so far.”
This year tens of thousands of voters also submitted forms allowing them to support a candidate without going to the caucus.
“I’ll tell you this, not only does it take a long time to process 35,000-40,000 sheets of paper, but just to open the envelopes!” Ravens said.
And don' t expect quick results. Ravens says the party may have initial results by early afternoon on Saturday and a final tally later in the day.
More than 27,000 delegates will be picked Saturday to go on to legislative district and county conventions. Eventually they'll be winnowed further at the congressional district and state level to just 101 delegates.
What's at stake Saturday is how those delegates vote at the Democratic National Convention. In a conference call on Friday, Democratic Party officials said it won't be known for sure how many delegates each candidate gets until after the state-level caucus.
Alaska and Hawaii also caucus Saturday.
More about how the caucus system works at the Washington State Democrats website.