Early votes arrive as Washington prepares for election night




OLYMPIA — More than a million Washingtonians have cast their ballots in advance of Tuesday’s election, as voters decide on federal and state races and high-profile ballot measures.

Elections officials in the state are expecting turnout of at least 80 percent, driven in large part by interest in the contentious presidential race.

But voters also have a full slate of statewide and local races to consider, along with initiatives related to increasing the statewide minimum wage, campaign finance reform and a carbon tax.

Of the nine statewide offices on the ballot, five have open seats: lieutenant governor, auditor, lands commissioner, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.

Among the remaining seats with incumbents, voters will decide between Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking a second term, and his Republican challenger Bill Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner. The race between Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her Democratic challenger, Tina Podlodowski, is among the most competitive of the statewide races.

In the race for state treasurer, two Republicans face off on the general ballot, the first time two candidates from the same party — Michael Waite and Duane Davidson — will compete in a statewide race since Washington launched the top-two primary system in 2008.

All 98 seats in the state House are up for election Nov. 8, and voters will decide 26 of the state Senate’s 49 seats. A handful of those seats could shift control of the chambers. In the Senate, Republicans — along with a Democrat who caucuses with them — hold a 26-23 advantage. In the House, Democrats have a 50-48 advantage.

Voters also will choose between incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and her Republican challenger, Chris Vance. All 10 of the state’s U.S. House seats are up for election, including Seattle’s 7th District battle between two Democrats, state Sen. Pramila Jayapal and state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw.

Three of the state Supreme Court’s nine justices also face re-election challenges. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen is running against Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel, Justice Charlie Wiggins is up against Federal Way Municipal Judge Dave Larson, and Justice Mary Yu faces Gonzaga law professor David DeWolf.

There also are six initiatives on the ballot, including a measure that would raise the hourly minimum wage by roughly $4 over three years, to $13.50. Another initiative asks voters whether the state should impose the nation’s first direct carbon tax on the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline.

As of Friday, about 1.7 million of the more than 4.2 million ballots sent had been returned by mail or drop box.

Record turnout for the state was during the 2008 election, when 84.6 percent of voters participated. In 2012, turnout was 81.3 percent.

The early returns indicate that after a long and turbulent election season, voters were ready to get their votes in “and for the elections to be over,” said David Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

Generally, between 50 and 60 percent of the overall vote is counted and reported on election night. That number could be closer to 60 percent if more ballots are on hand and processed before polls close at 8 p.m., Ammons said.

King County, the state’s largest, has already announced it plans to do two updates posting incoming results after polls close: at 8:15 p.m. and again at 1:30 a.m.  “I’m sure people have that goal of knowing more on election night,” Ammons said.