- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Washington state Senate voted Tuesday night to approve a bill that would strengthen the state’s 2016 presidential primary and move it from May to March.

In a 36-12 vote, a bipartisan majority supported a bill from Secretary of State Kim Wyman to revamp how the state conducts its presidential primary. Under the bill, Washington’s primary date would move from late May to one week after the early March Super Tuesday primaries. In 2016, that would be March 8 - early enough, the bill’s backers hope, to make Washington delegates more valuable to candidates.

“We’d like to be part of the national debate here on the West Coast so that more candidates will come to Washington state,” said Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, lead sponsor of the bill.

Along with changing the date of the primary, the bill also aims to lessen the influence of party caucuses in favor of the citizens who vote in primaries.

If both major parties agree to allocate at least part of their Washington delegates according to the primary results, each primary would only be open to people who publicly declare a party. If either Republicans or Democrats decline, all presidential candidates from both parties would go onto a single ballot, and anyone could cast a vote.

That aspect has rankled some Democrats, whose national rules forbid a state from splitting its delegate allocation between a primary and a caucus. Washington Republicans already award some delegates to the winner of the primary and others according to the caucus results. Wyman, who proposed the change, is a Republican. All of the votes against the bill Tuesday night came from Senate Democrats.

“This has to be a decision from the party,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle. “I think that is the right way to go.”

The bill goes next to the House.

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