Picking a political party is mandatory in order to vote in the presidential primary

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By now, registered voters in Washington should have received their presidential primary ballots, or will soon. There are several things you should know before you vote this year.

First, ballots must be returned by March 10, Washington’s new, earlier, primary date. In 2016, the presidential primary was held in late May.

Second, the results actually matter for Democrats this time.

In the 2016, Democrats held their caucuses in March, with the 74 delegates going to Bernie Sanders and 27 to Hillary Clinton.

But in the May primary, Democratic voters favored Hillary Clinton by 38,168 votes.

But those primary results didn’t matter, with the state Democratic Party having decided to go with caucus results.

The presidential primary did matter for Republicans in 2016, but by the May vote Donald Trump was the only Republican left in the race and thus he ran away with the Washington vote.

This year, the primary ballot is what matters for both parties, though Trump’s name is the only one on the Republican ballot.

For your vote to count you must pick a party

Also, you must pick a party affiliation to vote in the primary. And there’s no avoiding it if you want to vote.

If you’re a Republican and already know Trump will be the state winner, it may be tempting to vote on the Democratic ballot.

But to do so you must declare yourself a Democrat.

Voting in the Democratic primary, then declaring yourself a Republican, will invalidate your ballot, as will skipping a party preference completely.

It is crucial to select a party if you want your vote to count.

Be advised, that vital party preference is not on the ballot itself, but on the back of the return envelope, above where you sign.

Your party preference becomes a public record for 60 days, meaning anyone can access that information.

And that could make you a target for fund-raising and other party mailings.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, said she Tuesday will not be voting in the presidential primary because of the requirement to pick a party.

She said if she’s re-elected she’ll push to have that requirement, which was pushed by the two parties, removed.