Strong turnout predicted as ballots reach voters

October 23, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

King County Elections mailed more than 1.16 million ballots to voters Oct. 17, as all-mail voting started in federal, state and local contests.

The election marks the first presidential contest since King County started conducting all-mail elections and since Washington transitioned to a vote-by-mail state.

“We anticipate a high turnout, and we encourage all voters to get their ballots voted and returned no later than the Election Day deadline — the earlier, the better,” county Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement.

What to know

Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6 or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day. King County Elections has opened a ballot drop box at Issaquah City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way.

The county elections office also opens ballot drop-off vans and accessible voting centers to allow more opportunities to vote. Find a list of locations to return ballots at www.kingcounty.gov/elections.

King County and state elections officials mailed voters’ pamphlets to homes in recent days. Voters can also find the pamphlets online, at Seattle and King County libraries, and at the King County Elections Office, 919 S.W. Grady Way, Renton.

By the numbers

The number of registered voters in Washington increased between the Aug. 7 primary and Oct. 19.

  • 3,880,859 — active registered voters statewide
  • 1,166,444 — active registered voters in King County, a record high
  • 149,202 — increase in registered voters statewide since the August primary
  • 56,000 — increase in registered voters in King County since July 25

Sources: King County Elections, Office of the Secretary of State

The top elections official in Washington, Secretary of State Sam Reed, predicted 81 percent voter turnout, a strong response to the races for president and governor, but less than the record set in 2008.

Washington is home to about 3.8 million registered voters. State elections officials said almost 150,000 people registered or reactivated a registration since the August primary.

The historic average turnout in a presidential and gubernatorial election year since 1952 is 79.2 percent. Reed does not expect the turnout — or ballot return, in the case of all-mail voting — to match or exceed the record 84.6 percent in 2008.

In addition to the races for president and governor, Washington voters must also decide federal, statewide, legislative and local contests, plus a series of ballot measures.

“We have probably the most exciting assortment in the country this year — including everything from same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana to charter schools and supermajority for taxes,” Reed said. “I expect the initiatives to draw hordes of both supporters and opponents.”

In King County, voters must decide Proposition 1 — a property tax levy to renew regional fingerprinting services for police — and elect a sheriff.

The electorate should also receive voters’ pamphlets in the mail. King County Elections sends a local guide and the Office of the Secretary of State sends information about statewide candidates and issues.

The local elections office already sent about 15,000 ballots overseas and to military voters to allow extra time for delivery.

“It is true that there have been an avalanche of TV and radio commercials for months, blanket news coverage for the past year and heavy spending by the campaigns,” Reed said. “But the thing that generates turnout is whether you have compelling races and ballot measures that people care about. We have that this year, big time.”

Voters can vote as soon as ballots arrive. Return ballots through the U.S. Postal Service with a first-class stamp. Or, drop ballots to 15 drop-off locations countywide, including a drop box at Issaquah City Hall.

The county is also using ballot vans as temporary drop-off locations. The staffed vans debuted in the August primary. Ballots can also be returned to accessible voting centers during business hours.

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