Yakima County political parties encourage people to participate in caucuses this year, even with a meaningful presidential primary in March.

In a change from past years, Republicans and Democrats in Washington state will choose their pledged presidential delegates based on the March 10 primary, instead of tallying caucus results. The primary is earlier than in the past and it will count.

Primary ballots go out in the mail on Feb. 21. Ballots will list 13 Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate, U.S. President Donald Trump.

Washington state voters do not declare a party when registering to vote. But in the presidential primary, voters must mark one party box and sign the declarations on the return envelope, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Officials with the Yakima County Democrats and the Yakima County Republicans said it’s important for people to be informed and get involved. They encouraged people to put local caucuses on their calendars, because they are a good place to talk about issues and connect with others.

Here are some upcoming dates and events:

Republicans

The Republican caucuses are planned from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 29, at 14 different locations throughout the county, said Benine McDonnell, the office manager for the Yakima County Republicans.

McDonnell said the party will elect delegates to send to the county convention, on March 21 at Eisenhower High School. At that convention, the party will discuss and decide issues that will become part of the party platform.

From there, delegates will go to the state convention, May 14-16 in Everett. The Republican National Convention is Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C., McDonnell said.

McDonnell said everyone is welcome at the Feb. 29 meeting. There is no cost to attend, but participants must sign a declaration that they will participate as a Republican in both the caucus and the primary.

“This is a way to connect with people who think like we do and also to let them know about upcoming events,” McDonnell said. “This is the beginning of the process and a way people can get involved to make their city, county, and state better.”

Debra Manjarrez, chairwoman for the Yakima County Republicans, said it’s still important for people to get involved with the caucuses even though people already know the party’s candidate will be President Donald Trump.

“The GOP caucuses are your opportunity to get involved in your government,” Manjarrez said. “Let your voice be heard and participate in the process.”

Voters can find their caucus location at wsrp.org/caucus and preregister at that site, McDonnell said.

Democrats

The Yakima County Democratic Central Committee will have legislative district caucuses for the 14th, 15th and the portion of 13th district in Yakima County at 10 a.m. May 3, said Chairwoman Naomi Whitmore. The county convention will start at 1 p.m., after the caucus, she said.

The committee will update the party platform and elect delegates to represent presidential candidates at the congressional district caucuses on May 30, she said. The state convention is in June, and the Democratic National Convention is in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The number of delegates elected for each presidential candidate at both caucuses will be determined proportionally by the votes candidates receive in the March 10 primary, she added.

Whitmore said the committee is still determining locations for its events, which will be posted online at www.yakimademocrats.com. The locations will be accessible and Spanish translation will be available, she said.

Whitmore said the bottom line for voters is to vote in the March primary. She also encouraged those who want to run for a delegate position to come to the May 3 caucus.

“Party registration is not required, but in order to participate, voters will need to sign a declaration stating that they consider themselves to be a Democrat and will only be able to participate in one party’s nominating contest,” she said.

Reach Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @LexTalamo.