Turnout in primary election fails to meet expectations

August 28, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

King County turnout in the Aug. 7 primary hit 40 percent, but statewide turnout failed to meet a pre-election forecast.

In King County, voters returned 443,523 ballots and officials tallied 432,049 ballots. The difference is due to signature problems and ballots returned too late to be counted. Officials certified the election results Aug. 21.

By the numbers

Aug. 7 primary election

  • 1,121,772 — ballots issued
  • 1,110,063 — registered voters
  • 443,523 — ballots returned
  • 432,049 — ballots counted
  • 0 — discrepancies
  • 274 — voters using accessible voting centers
  • 568 — ballots returned by email
  • 96 — ballots returned by fax
  • 64,780 — ballots returned at drop boxes
  • 4,990 — challenged ballots cured
  • 2,453 — ballots with remaining challenges
  • 8,622 — ballots returned too late
  • 8,417 — ballots returned as undeliverable

Turnout in local races

5th Legislative District (part of Issaquah, Black Diamond, Carnation, Maple Valley, North Bend and Snoqualmie)

  • 86,254 — registered voters
  • 30,392 — ballots counted in the district
  • 35.2 — districtwide turnout percentage

41st Legislative District (part of Issaquah, part of Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, part of Renton and part of Sammamish)

  • 87,003 — registered voters
  • 34,371 — ballots counted in the district
  • 39.5 — districtwide turnout percentage

Source: King County Elections

“We just certified our 12th consecutive election without discrepancies,” Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement.

Local elections administrators noted a reduction in the number of challenged signatures of almost 45 percent. Officials attributed the shift to a celebrity-studded outreach campaign to remind voters to carefully follow ballot instructions.

“I’m also pleased to report that voters helped keep election costs down this election by remembering to sign the return envelope and responding promptly to our calls,” Huff continued. “We have seen improvement in several key areas where voters can make a big difference in the cost of running elections and making sure more ballots can be opened and counted.”

Statewide, elections administrators tallied more than 1.4 million ballots. Overall, voter participation reached 38.5 percent — less than the above-average 46 percent forecast in July.

The turnout is the weakest in recent memory for a primary in a year with gubernatorial and presidential elections on the ballot in November.

The top elections official in Washington, Secretary of State Sam Reed, forecast 46 percent for the primary, based on intense interest in the contests for president, governor, statewide offices and ballot measures.

Some analysts blamed the earlier date for the primary. Officials bumped up the deadline to accommodate overseas and military voters, in order to comply with a federal law.

Moreover, Reed’s office could not afford to send a statewide voters’ guide due to budget cuts. King County sent a local voters’ guide alongside ballots.

In King County, voters endorsed a $200 million property tax measure to build a juvenile justice facility to replace the aging Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention facility in Seattle.

The property tax measure, Proposition 1, appeared on a crowded primary ballot alongside federal, judicial, legislative and statewide contests.

The electorate chose the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, in the all-mail primary election. The top vote recipients advanced to an all-mail general election Nov. 6.

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