With the exception of a few recounts and the state certification process, the 2020 general election is in the books. Washington State’s thirty-nine counties today certified their returns, completing the vote counting phase of the state’s 2020 presidential general election. Voter turnout reached 84.14% — not quite as high as the 2008 general election twelve years ago, but pretty close to a record.
A total of 4,116,894 ballots were counted in this election; 4,892,871 voters were registered and eligible to participate, according to the state voter rolls.
San Juan County earned bragging rights for the highest turnout of any county, with 90.76% participation, trailed hotly by NPI President Diane Jones’ home county of Jefferson with 90.06%. (Jefferson and San Juan are, along with King County, the state’s three reliably liberal strongholds.)
Rounding out the top ten were Garfield, Columbia, Whatcom, Lincoln, Kittitas, Wahkakum, and Skagit, which all came in between 86% and 89%.
King County came in fourteenth in terms of turnout, with 85.35%. King County Elections Director Julie Wise had set an audacious goal of 90% turnout, which was not realized. Still, the county saw its best ever performance.
“Out of 1.4 million registered voters in King County, 86.67% turned out this election, breaking the last record of 85% in 2012,” King County Elections announced in a press release celebrating the end of counting.
“This year over 909,000 (73.9%) voters returned their ballots to ballot drop boxes, with more than 307,000 (24.98%) returning by mail and over 13,500 (1.1%) by fax. A little over 10,000 (0.85%) ballots were rejected for signature issues, and 707 (0.06%) were returned too late, making up just 0.91% of total ballots.”
Central Washington’s Yakima County again came in last in terms of turnout, with 75.95% participation. Adams, Franklin, Grays Harbor, Grant, Asotin, Spokane, Skamania, and Benton are the other counties in the bottom ten.
While voting overwhelmingly against Donald Trump, voters in Washington State opted to keep every incumbent who sought reelection in the state’s executive department, with the lone exception of Republican State Treasurer Duane Davidson, who was ousted in favor of Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti.
Voters also returned all of the incumbent justices to the Washington State Supreme Court (two were gubernatorial appointees) and enthusiastically affirmed the Legislature’s passage of ESSB 5395, Washington’s new comprehensive sexual health education law, which was a 2020 NPI legislative priority.
The Legislature will have the same balance of power that it had in 2019–2020, with the overall caucus numbers unchanged, though some Democratic and Republican incumbents were sent packing (Republicans flipped the 19th District, while Democrats flipped the 28th and also took a seat in the 42nd.)
The House and Senate’s Democratic caucuses will be more progressive and the Republican caucuses will be more fundamentalist as a result, though the archmilitant Matt Shea will no longer be a state legislator.
In King County’s 5th Legislative District, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Mullet ended the counting with a fifty-seven vote lead out of over 90,000 votes cast, triumphing over fellow Democrat Ingrid Anderson by the slimmest of margins. A recount in that race is expected to begin next week.
In Pierce County, voters elected a Democratic majority for the first time in nearly two decades, which will significantly change the dynamics in Washington’s second largest county. Pierce County will continue to have a Republican executive, however, as Bruce Dammeier defeated Larry Seaquist to earn a second term.
This year’s rate of participation was like the day to 2019’s night.
In the 2019 general election, only 2,035,401 Washingtonians returned ballots. More than twice that number voted this year, which really underscores the point we’ve been making about the importance of phasing out odd-year elections. Participation matters. There’s an enormous difference between a general election in which over 84% of voters participate versus an election in which only 45.19% participate (as was the case last year), or 37.10% (as was the case in 2017).
Our southern neighbor Oregon and our northern neighbor British Columbia both hold state/provincial elections less frequently than we do. It’s time we recognized that seesawing between really great turnout in even numbered years and really bad turnout in odd numbered years is dumb. Let’s hold elections in even numbered years like 2020 and ensure local elections get the same robust participation that presidential and midterm elections already do.