Comment: Presidential primary launches state’s election season

With ballots in the mail, here’s what to know and how to prepare for making your choice for U.S. president.

By Garth Fell / For The Herald

The presidential election year begins in earnest this week for Snohomish County voters. Ballots are in the mail for the March 12 Presidential Primary in Washington state.

While all elections are important, presidential elections generate unmatched excitement. Races and issues drive turnout and presidential elections garner our largest levels of voter participation.

A presidential election year also generates a lot of national, state, local and even international interest. This results in an abundance of information we must sort through as we make important voting decisions and learn when, where and how to cast our vote. From a forwarded email or a post to a local blog, it can be a challenge determining what information you can trust.

To have greater confidence when consuming information, digital literacy experts suggest using a technique like SIFT: Stop, Investigate the source, Find better (additional) coverage, and Trace the information back to the original context. SIFT and other methods like it are designed to help us be more deliberate in considering the tweet, email, post or other messages directed at us. This technique allows us to take steps such as understanding the credibility and motivation of the author, searching to see if the same information is being shared by multiple credible sources, and tracing back the information to the original source to make sure it was reshared in the same context.

Thoughtfully consuming information is not only important when considering candidates but also when understanding the voting process. Over the last decade more and more we have been targeted with misleading information when it comes to how to cast your ballot and how your ballot is counted. Some of this bad information is spread by people innocently sharing their assumptions or misunderstanding, while other bad information is intentionally propagated by individuals, groups and even other nations to foster distrust in our elections and their results.

One source you can count on for accurate information about elections and the voting process is my team at Snohomish County Elections. Our mission is to conduct fair, accurate and accessible elections in a nonpartisan manner. We are also committed to transparency, as we open our doors each election to public observation and thoroughly account for and report our work.

So, what should you know as you cast your ballot in the Presidential Primary? Let me give you information straight from a trusted source: Snohomish County Elections.

The Presidential Primary is a nominating process that assists the Democratic and Republican political parties in choosing their presidential nominees.

State law and political party rules require you to declare a party preference at the time of voting by checking either the Democratic Party or Republican Party box on your ballot signature envelope. For your vote to count, you must vote for only one candidate from the party of your declared preference.

Your declared party preference is required for only the March Presidential Primary and does not bind how you vote in any elections this year or in future primaries.

You will see a number of candidates on your ballot who are no longer actively campaigning to become a 2024 Presidential nominee. The political parties in Washington state were required to submit names for the Presidential Primary ballot on Jan. 9, and ballot and voters’ pamphlet printing began soon after. To see which candidates suspended their campaigns, you can visit www.votewa.gov and search the Voter Guide for updated information on current Presidential Primary candidates.

To ensure that your vote is properly counted, follow all Presidential Primary ballot instructions carefully. Results from the Presidential Primary will be used to determine which candidates Washington state delegates support at their party’s national convention. The Presidential race will go before voters in the November General Election.

If you have questions about the March 12 Presidential Primary or other elections this year, please visit the Snohomish County Elections website at snoco.org/elections or follow us on social media @snoco_auditor.

The March 12 Presidential Primary is the first opportunity many have to vote this year. If you choose to participate, take time to study the candidates carefully and ensure you are getting information from trusted sources and in original context. Then vote and return your ballot by March 12. Your voice will help determine the course our country takes over the next four years.

Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell is a nationally certified elections administrator and serves as the secretary of the Washington State Association of County Auditors as well as the co-chair of its Elections Committee. During his 24-year career serving the public, Fell has overseen nearly 100 elections, including six presidential elections. He was elected as the nonpartisan auditor for Snohomish County in 2019 and reelected in 2023. For more information about the office, visit www.snoco.org/elections.

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