AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the District of Columbia’s GOP presidential primary

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the nation’s capital will gather at a hotel this weekend and cast their votes for the Republican presidential candidate they would like to see occupy the White House.

The contest may be former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s best chance to score a victory in a presidential nominating contest. She and former President Donald Trump, who has won every election so far, are leading the field of the Republican presidential primaries in the District of Columbia, which will be held from Friday to Sunday.

The event comes ahead of Super Tuesday, when 15 states will hold Republican presidential contests on March 5, the most of any day on the primary calendar.

At stake in Washington is the city’s 19 delegates to this summer’s Republican National Convention, where the party’s nominee will be officially crowned. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, vowed to stay in the race after losing her home state’s primary on Saturday.

This Friday, the first day of voting in the District of Columbia, Haley will hold an event with the D.C. Republican Party at the primary’s only polling place, a hotel in the heart of downtown. The party says she is the sixth Republican presidential candidate it has welcomed this campaign season.

Trump won an uncontested primary in D.C. during his 2020 reelection bid, but four years earlier placed a distant third behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Rubio’s victory was one of only three in his failed 2016 bid. Mitt Romney and John McCain won the city’s primaries in 2012 and 2008 on their way to the Republican nomination.

The county’s party-organized Republican presidential primaries tend to have a looser, more festive atmosphere than the typically staid environment of state or city elections, where election activities are prohibited within a certain distance of the polling place. In the 2016 vote, held in conjunction with the local party’s convention, voters faced long lines but were able to pass the time browsing tables of political and campaign articles before casting their ballots.

Washington is one of the most democratic jurisdictions in the country. Democrat Joe Biden won the district in the 2020 general election with 92% of the vote.

A look at what to expect on election night:

The party-run Republican presidential primaries will be held over three days, starting on Friday and ending on Sunday. Voting closes on Sunday at 7 p.m

In addition to Haley and Trump, the candidates on the ballot include Florida businessman David Stuckenberg and former candidates Ryan Binkley, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Only voters registered as Republicans in the district may participate in the primary election. The deadline for registration was February 16.

All 19 of Washington’s Republican delegates will be awarded to the candidate who receives more than 50% of the primary votes. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, delegates are allocated in proportion to the total number of primary votes. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the votes to qualify for delegates.

The state party is expected to announce the final voting results and the winner of the primaries within about an hour after polls close on Sunday evening. The Associated Press winner call will be based on the state party’s announcement. Unlike other elections, there will be no partial voting results to analyze over the course of the night.

As of January 31, there were approximately 23,000 registered Republicans in the city. Turnout in most Republican primaries in the district is typically relatively low. Just over 2,800 votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election. About 5,100 votes were cast in the 2012 primary and 6,200 in the 2008 primary.

Early voting is not allowed during the primaries. Absentee voting is also not allowed, except for military and overseas voters. The state party says only two voters requested a military or overseas ballot during the 2016 primary.

There is only one polling place in the primaries, the Madison Hotel. The state party is expected to announce a final result within about an hour after voting ends.

As of Sunday, there are 134 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee and 247 days until the November general election.