Wednesday, March 29, 2023
March 29, 2023

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Elections expects 50 percent turnout for presidential primary

Ballots flowing in despite mandate for partisan declaration

By , Columbian staff reporter
2 Photos
A line of voters drop off their ballots at the ballot box on West 14th Street in downtown Vancouver  Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files
A line of voters drop off their ballots at the ballot box on West 14th Street in downtown Vancouver Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files Photo Gallery

Despite voter confusion and irritation over having to select a political party, Clark County election officials say they are on track for a 50 percent turnout in Tuesday’s presidential primary.

“Of course, we don’t have a crystal ball,” said Cathie Garber, county elections supervisor. “It’s our best guess.”

As of Friday, county elections had received 91,335 ballots, for a turnout of 30.8 percent.

Turnout for the 2016 presidential primary in Clark County was 37 percent. That does not provide a good comparison; four years ago, Democrats relied on caucuses to assign delegates — the primary was a nonbinding “beauty contest” vote — and the Republican nominating process was virtually over by the time Washington tallied its results in late May 2016.

There often are heavy ballot days in final days before an election. That might be particularly true this year for Democrats who waited for a once-crowded field to shrink in the past week.

Fifteen Democrats are listed on the ballot, but only three are still running: former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. President Donald Trump is the only Republican on the ballot.

Voters must mark the Democratic or Republican box and sign their return envelopes for their votes to count. The partisan declaration, a requirement under state law, is creating consternation in Clark County and across Washington.

“We are getting hundreds of phone calls regarding this,” Garber said. “People are very confused. It bothers them they had to mark their party. … They feel like it’s an infringement on their privacy.”

County elections has placed an explanation prominently on its website’s home page,, and a recorded message on its phone line, 564-397-2345.

“I would say the majority of people are questioning it,” Garber said about the phone calls fielded by county elections. “After we talk to them, they understand it and they feel more comfortable with it. There are a few that are taking out their frustrations on us.”

As of Friday morning, Clark County had a little more than 2,200 ballots where voters had signed their return envelopes but did not mark the party box. That count does not include ballots where election officials sent voters missing signature or party declaration forms and received competed forms back.

“I really want to stress that this is a requirement if you want to participate,” Garber said. “And whatever party you mark on the outside must match what (candidate) you mark inside.”

So far, about 56 percent of accepted ballots have selected the Democrat Party box. That should not be considered an indication of the county’s partisan split, since Democrats have greater incentive to vote in the primary than Republicans, who are virtually assured Trump will be their nominee.

Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday to be counted.

They also can be taken to one of nine permanent ballot drop locations open 24 hours a day:

• 99th Street Transit Center, 9700 N.E. Seventh Ave.

• Battle Ground City Hall, 109 S.W. First St.

• Downtown Camas post office, 440 N.E. Fifth Ave.

• Downtown Vancouver, West 14th and Esther streets.

• Fisher’s Landing Transit Center, 3510 S.E. 164th Ave.

• Ridgefield, Pioneer Street exit, east of Interstate 5 at the end of North First Circle.

• Shahala Middle School, 601 S.E. 192nd Ave.

• Vancouver Mall, southeast of Macy’s near C-Tran’s Vine station.

• Washougal Community Library, 1661 C St.

Clark County also will have 22 election day-only drop locations that will accept ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday:

• Amboy Middle School, 22115 N.E. Chelatchie Road.

• Burton Elementary School, 14015 N.E. 28th St.

• Chinook Elementary School, 1900 N.W. Bliss Road.

• Clark County Elections, 1408 Franklin St.

• Clark County Fire District 3, 17718 N.E. 159th St., Brush Prairie.

• Ellsworth Elementary School, 512 S.E. Ellsworth Road.

• Felida Elementary School, 2700 N.W. 119th St.

• Glenwood Heights Primary School, 9716 N.E. 134th St.

• Grace Foursquare Gospel Church, 717 S.E. Everett Road, Camas.

• Hazel Dell Elementary School, 511 N.E. Anderson Road.

• Image Elementary School, 4400 N.E. 122nd Ave.

• La Center Community Center, 1000 E. Fourth St.

• Mill Plain Elementary School, 400 S.E. 164th Ave.

• Minnehaha Elementary School, 2800 N.E. 54th St.

• Pleasant Valley Middle School, 14320 N.E. 50th Ave.

• Salmon Creek Elementary School, 1601 N.E. 129th St.

• Sarah J. Anderson Elementary School, 2215 N.E. 104th St.

• Sifton Elementary School, 7301 N.E. 137th Ave.

• Walnut Grove Elementary School, 6103 N.E. 72nd Ave.

• Washougal Community Center, 1681 C St.

• Yacolt Primary School, 406 W. Yacolt Road.

• Zellerbach Administration Center, 841 N.E. 22nd Ave., Camas.

Columbian staff reporter