Last year, Washingtonians voted for electors for President, Vice President, nine statewide offices, and even more downballot races in near-record numbers, with statewide turnout surpassing 80%. This year, however, we appear set to regress to a percentage typical for recent odd-numbered local election cycles, which is to say that turnout probably isn’t going to get above the low forties.
As of this morning, statewide turnout stood at 16.7%, slightly above the 16% mark at this same juncture in 2017, which was the year that we saw the worst general election turnout in state history, but worse than 2019, when turnout as of the morning before Election Day was 19.4%.
However, it’s important to note that these statewide figures don’t reflect the latest numbers from King County. The most recent state data for King County stops at 10/29/2021 (Friday), but King County Elections actually updated its ballot return statistics just last night, so the numbers for the state’s largest subdivision have changed and are not yet reflected in the state’s compilation.
On Friday, King County turnout stood at 15.48%. However, as of sunset on Halloween, it was 16.30%, with 227,887 ballots returned and 1,398,046 active registered voters. Seattle turnout is a bit higher than the county as a whole, with 19.55% in. However, other cities are seeing higher turnout, including Mercer Island (22.69%), Medina (21.80%), and Normandy Park (20.55%).
Like in past years, small counties such as Columbia and Jefferson have the highest rates of return. Columbia has 35.3% of ballots in, followed by Jefferson at 28.8%. Stevens is third with 26.7%, Chelan is fourth with 26.6%, and Garfield is fifth with 26.2%. All of these counties have smaller populations than individual medium-sized cities like Redmond and Kirkland in King County.
Of the more populous counties (defined for the purposes of this post as counties with over 100,000 voters), Whatcom is the turnout leader at 20.3% in, trailed by Spokane (20.2%) and Thurston (20.1%). Then it’s Kitsap with 19.5% in and Benton with 18.5% in. King County is behind those five, but it’s ahead of its neighbors Snohomish and Pierce, with have 14.7% and 12.4%, respectively.
Pierce’s 12.4% turnout is the worst in the state right now, even worse than Yakima, which can often be found at the bottom of the list of the state’s list of thirty-nine counties with respect to turnout. Worryingly, Pierce has increasingly been a turnout laggard in recent odd-numbered election cycles. It is the state’s second largest subdivision, with over half a million voters.
If, like us, you’d like to see our turnout numbers go higher, then make calls and send texts to people you know to remind them about the election.
As I wrote in 2019:
There are no “off” years… every election year is an “on” year… so banish that term from your vocabulary and make sure people you know have voted.
We are blessed to live in a democratic republic where we get to choose our leaders as opposed to an authoritarian regime where we have no voice and no vote in our governance. Voting is an important obligation of citizenship.
There are no acceptable excuses for not voting, especially not when three weeks are provided to fill out and return ballots, which is the case here in Washington.
So please: Talk to your colleagues, family, and friends about tomorrow’s election. Ask them if they’ve voted. If they have, thank them.
And if they haven’t, offer to help them make a plan for voting. Research shows that people are more likely to vote when they make a plan to vote.