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Counties certify November general election; 2015 turnout is the worst in state history

Well, it’s official: The 2015 general election has now been certified by Washington State’s thirty-nine counties, and as we projected earlier this month, turnout ended up between 38% and 39% (to be precise, 38.45% statewide), which means it’s officially the worst in recorded state history.

The previous low of 40.18% was set in 1985.

Below is a table showing turnout by county, sorted from best to worst. Tiny Garfield County had the best turnout in the state, surpassing 60%, while Yakima County had the worst… 32.70%. Both counties are located east of the Cascade Mountains.

Snohomish County, which was a turnout laggard early on, managed to improve its showing significantly and come in ahead of Pierce County.

King County bested most of the state’s swing counties with respect to turnout this year, running ahead of the statewide average. The only major swing counties that did better than King were Whatcom and Spokane.

CountyRegistered Voters Voters VotingTurnout Percentage
Garfield1,54493660.62%
Lincoln6,8063,93257.77%
San Juan12,1777,00957.56%
Jefferson23,02112,67655.06%
Columbia2,6341,39352.89%
Pend Oreille8,4334,14449.14%
Wahkiakum2,9591,43248.39%
Clallam47,50922,86348.12%
Pacific13,5236,41047.4%
Ferry4,5732,16447.32%
Whatcom129,34561,13647.27%
Island50,53122,88445.29%
Grays Harbor38,64717,49445.27%
Okanogan21,2849,48344.55%
Whitman20,5209,07944.24%
Chelan40,54817,82343.96%
Stevens29,07212,77343.94%
Asotin13,1145,73343.72%
Skagit69,29929,78442.98%
Spokane286,245120,46042.08%
Mason35,83914,64140.85%
Klickitat13,3365,44740.84%
Kittitas22,3209,11540.84%
Skamania7,1302,91140.83%
Lewis43,79517,81240.67%
Douglas19,6707,88240.07%
Grant36,71214,53439.59%
King1,193,706467,60839.17%
Adams6,2042,42439.07%
Walla Walla32,21912,39238.46%
Kitsap154,35558,94038.18%
Thurston164,55560,87236.99%
Snohomish422,871146,97334.76%
Pierce450,941153,36834.01%
Clark251,52885,54134.01%
Cowlitz59,48319,88733.43%
Franklin30,70210,24233.36%
Benton99,53932,61632.77%
Yakima108,26335,40332.7%
Statewide Total3,974,9521,528,21638.45%

Here is an overview of the 2015 general election in King County:

  • Registered voters: 1,193,706
  • Ballots issued: 1,204,515
  • Ballots returned: 474,363
  • Ballots counted: 467,608
  • Ballots cast on accessible voting units: 274
  • Ballots returned to drop boxes: 124,837
  • Signatures initially challenged: 4,911
  • Signature challenges resolved: 2,803
  • Ballots returned too late: 4,439
  • Ballots returned as undeliverable: 11,875
  • Calls to voter hotline: 4,141
  • Emails from voters: 853

The above data is courtesy of King County Elections.

Even though King County has a paltry number of ballot drop boxes, it’s interesting to note that more than a quarter of all ballots were still returned to drop boxes.

A significant number of ballots were rejected because they were returned too late… over four thousand, as a matter of fact. That’s an absurdly high number. Had those ballots counted, it would have pushed turnout higher.

“We had hoped for a bigger turnout and appreciate the voters who got their ballots in,” said Sherril Huff, director of King County Elections, in a news release. “We are always looking for ways to promote voter engagement and anticipate that next year’s presidential election will see a dramatic increase in turnout.”

King County Elections has one race that is so tight that it will head to an automatic recount. That is the fascinating contest for Seattle City Council, District #1 between Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock. Braddock led for much of the count, but she finished just thirty-nine votes behind Herbold.

To put that in context, there were a total over twenty-five thousand votes cast in the race, and yet the two candidates are separated by a mere thirty-nine votes. That’s equivalent to a dozen or so households on a single street!

One hundred and sixty-four of the 25,043 votes cast were write-in votes.

“The recount process will begin on Monday, November 30 and be completed on Monday, December 7th,” King County Elections says. “The first few days of the recount process will involve staff and observer training and ballot sorting in order to obtain the votes specific to this District No. 1 race. Ballots are not stored by district.”

“Actual counting of the ballots is scheduled to begin on Thursday, December 3rd and is expected to continue through Friday, December 4th and possibly the morning of Monday, December 7th.  After the manual hand count and reconciliation is complete the Canvassing Board will meet to certify the recount on Monday, December 7 at 3:00 PM. Final results will be announced by 4:30 PM that day.”