Secretary of State shares complaints from voters who don't want to publicly pick a party

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington state's primary is set for March 10, and voters already have their ballots.

The ballots were mailed out last Wednesday and since then, the Secretary of State's office has been bombarded with complaints about the primary voting process.

On the outside of the ballot, you have to pick a party and declare that you're a Democrat or a Republican.  That information is public for 60 days.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman says some people are really upset about it.

"We've heard reports that people think their mailman or their letter carrier will throw those ballots away or that elections officials will throw them away and we're assuring people that that won't happen," Wyman said.

So why force people to declare Democrat or Republican?

Because unlike elections, primaries are a party nominating process. And the parties and lawmakers in this state want to feel confident that the people voting in the primary for a party are actually members of that party.

If you look at your ballot, you'll find 13 Democratic candidates. Since they were printed, five of those have dropped out of the race: Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, John Delaney, Devel Patrick and Andrew Yang.

On the Republican side, you have two choices: President Donald Trump or you can write in a candidate.

If you look at the fine print on the ballot, it says "Attempting to vote more than once, or falsely signing this declaration is a felony punishable by... imprisonment of five years, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both."

"I think the parties are worried about somebody coming over, crossing into their primary and trying to influence or affect it, but I don't know how you would go back and prove John Smith really is a Republican and he crossed over and voted in our Democratic primary. I don't know how you prosecute that," Wyman said.

A few times in past primaries, the state has offered up an unaffiliated ballot. That allowed voters to pick the candidates they wanted without publicly declaring a party.

In fact, back in 2000, 500,000 voters selected that "unaffiliated" option. Since 2015, Wyman has pushed to bring back the unaffiliated option, but those efforts have failed in the statehouse.

Wyman came out and said she's not voting in the presidential primary. She told Q13 News that because she oversees elections, she never backs a specific candidate for president.

She's a Republican. There is only one candidate on the Republican ballot: President Trump.  She doesn't want to share if she's supporting the president or not. She says this is another reason we should have an unaffiliated ballot.

Voter turnout on the Democratic side is expected to set primary records for our state.