PoliticsAmerica VotesPresidential Election


What to expect in the District of Columbia's GOP presidential primary

The contest may be the best chance for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to score a victory in a presidential nomination contest.
American and District of Columbia flags fly outside of the Madison Hotel
Posted at 7:59 AM, Mar 03, 2024

Republicans in the nation's capital are gathering at a hotel to cast their ballots for the GOP presidential candidate they would like to see occupy the White House.

The contest may be the best chance for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to score a victory in a presidential nomination contest. She and former President Donald Trump, who has won every contest so far, headline the field of candidates competing in the District of Columbia's Republican presidential primary, which began Friday and concludes Sunday.

The event takes place in the run-up to 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 are the city's 19 delegates to this summer's Republican National Convention, where the party's nominee will officially be crowned. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, pledged to remain in the race after losing her home-state primary last Saturday.

On Friday, which was the first day of voting in the District of Columbia, Haley held an event with the D.C. Republican Party at the primary's lone polling location, a hotel in the heart of downtown. The party said she was the sixth GOP presidential hopeful it has hosted this campaign season.

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

The district's party-run Republican presidential contests tend to have a looser, more festive atmosphere than the typically staid environment of a state- or city-run election, where electioneering is banned within a certain distance from the polling site. At the 2016 vote, which was 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 merchandise before casting their ballots.

Washington is one of the most heavily Democratic jurisdictions in the nation. 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:

Primary day

The party-run Republican presidential primary is held over three days, starting Friday and concluding Sunday. Voting concludes Sunday at 7 p.m.

What's on the ballot

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

Who gets to vote

Only voters registered in the district as Republicans may participate in the primary. The deadline to register was Feb. 16.

Delegate allocation rules

All of Washington's 19 GOP delegates will be awarded to the candidate who receives more than 50% of the primary vote. If no candidate wins a vote majority, delegates will be allocated in proportion to the overall primary vote. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the vote to qualify for delegates.

Decision notes

The state party is expected to announce the final vote results and the winner of the primary within an hour or so of polls closing on Sunday night. Unlike other elections, there will not be partial vote results to analyze over the course of the night.

What do turnout and advance vote look like

As of Jan. 31, there were about 23,000 registered Republicans in the city. Turnout in most of the district's Republican primaries tends to be relatively low. At the party's 2016 presidential vote, slightly more than 2,800 votes were cast. About 5,100 votes were cast in the 2012 primary and 6,200 in the 2008 primary.

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

How long does vote-counting usually take?

There is only one polling location in the primary, the Madison Hotel. The state party is expected to announce a final result within an hour or so after voting concludes.

Are we there yet?

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