AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the Washington, DC, primaries

A sign for an early voting site at the Stead Park Recreation Center is photographed in northwest Washington, on May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Robert Yoon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in the nation’s capital will get their chance to weigh in on the race for the White House on Tuesday as the presidential primary calendar enters its final days. Voters in Washington, D.C., will cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary as well as for Congress and city offices.

President Joe Biden is the only major candidate left on the ballot in the city that delivered him a higher share of the vote than any state in the 2020 general election against then-President Donald Trump. After Tuesday’s contests in D.C., Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota, as well as two caucuses in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 8, Biden will be poised to officially accept the nomination that he unofficially clinched on March 12.

D.C.’s city-run presidential primary will feature only the Democratic contest. Republicans held a party-run primary in March, the first of two victories former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley scored against Trump.

Voters will also decide contested primaries for the city’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House as well as for several seats on the city council. The city’s unofficial shadow U.S. House seat and one of two shadow U.S. Senate seats are also on the ballot. Created in 1990, the shadow senators and representative are not officially members of Congress and instead serve as advocates for D.C. representation and statehood.

While most of the city primaries on the ballot involve incumbents running for reelection, the Ward 7 city council Democratic primary is an open-seat race featuring 10 candidates. The incumbent is former Mayor Vincent Gray, who is retiring after suffering a series of health challenges in recent years.

The primary will for the first time allow noncitizens to cast ballots for city offices, including Tuesday’s city council races, but not for president or other federal offices. Republicans in the U.S. House lead an effort to keep the voting law from going into effect for Tuesday’s primary. The measure passed the House on May 23, but a similar bill in the U.S. Senate was blocked, effectively leaving the law in place. The issue of noncitizen voting has become a centerpiece of Republican messaging.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday:


The Washington, D.C., primaries will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.


The Associated Press will report vote totals and declare winners in the Democratic presidential primary, as well as in contested primaries for U.S. delegate to Congress, city council, shadow senator and shadow representative. Candidates on the presidential primary ballot are Biden, Marianne Williamson, Armando Perez-Serrato as well as a spot for write-in candidates.


Only voters registered with a party may participate in that party’s primary. Republicans can’t vote in the Democratic primary. Independents or unaffiliated voters may not participate in any party’s primary.


D.C.’s 20 pledged Democratic delegates are allocated according to the national party’s standard rules. Five at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the citywide vote, as are two PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The city has lumped its eight wards into two districts with a combined 13 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the citywide vote to qualify for any citywide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.


Biden heads into the D.C. primary as the prohibitive favorite, as neither of his remaining challengers has made much of an impact on any primary or caucus to date. The first indications that he is winning citywide on a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held this year may be sufficient to determine the citywide winner.

For local races, five of the seven contested Democratic primaries feature incumbents running for reelection, most of whom won their last primary by large margins. The incumbent with the smallest margin of victory in the last primary is shadow Rep. Oye Owolewa, who won the 2022 Democratic nomination by a margin of 5 percentage points. The past primary results for these five races will provide a good benchmark of how each incumbent is faring as results come in on Tuesday night.

Determining the winner in the Ward 7 city council primary could take longer than the incumbent races given the 10-candidate field. Gray won a six-way primary in 2020 with just 45% of the fewer than 12,000 votes cast. With four more candidates running and no incumbent on the ballot, this year’s race could come down to a relatively small number of votes.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

In D.C. elections, recounts are automatic in U.S. House and city council races if the margin is less than 1% of the total vote. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.


As of April 30, there were 450,750 registered voters in Washington. Of those, 77% were Democrats, 5% were Republicans and 16% were not registered with any party.

In the 2022 primaries, turnout was 26% of registered voters in the Democratic primary and less than 1% in the Republican primary. About 76% of primary voters cast their ballots before primary day that year.

As of Tuesday, a total of 31,421 ballots had cast ballots before primary day.


In D.C.’s 2022 primaries, the AP first reported results at 8:30 p.m. ET, or 30 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 11:59 p.m. ET with about 69% of total votes counted.


As of Tuesday, there will be 41 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, 76 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 154 days until the November general election.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.