Saturday, May 15, 2021
May 15, 2021

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Election Day arrives

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Voter Chelsea Unger joins a steady stream of local residents as they drop their ballots off in Fisher's Landing in time for this year's election.
Voter Chelsea Unger joins a steady stream of local residents as they drop their ballots off in Fisher's Landing in time for this year's election. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

It’s here.

Today, voters in Clark County and across the United States will cast their ballots in what’s widely considered the most consequential presidential election in a generation.

Around midday Monday, would-be voters were lined up around the block outside the Clark County Elections Office at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said, looking to register to vote or drop their ballot off in person.

“It’s crazy. Around the corner, down Mill Plain (Boulevard). Never seen it before, in a presidential election,” Kimsey said.

“We’re humbled by it. We love it.”

Even the day before Election Day, the number of people who had already cast their ballots in Clark County had surpassed the total sum of voters in the 2016 election.

As of Monday morning, 228,831 people had voted, Kimsey’s office reported. By the time the 2016 election was over, 210,760 ballots were cast in all.

The latest tally brings the county’s pre-Election Day voter turnout up to 70.64 percent, a reflection of unprecedented early ballot returns.

The county is also adding new voters to its rolls — 20,136 people have registered to vote just since the August primary. In the four years since the 2016 presidential election, the county added around 52,000 new registered voters.

That four-year growth amounts to nearly double the norm — between 2012 and 2016, for example, the county added just shy of 30,000 new voters. Between 2008 and 2012, it added around 26,000 people to the voter rolls.

As in every prior election, Kimsey’s office won’t have the final tally ready tonight. The initial numbers, which will be posted on the elections office website around 8 p.m., won’t tell the whole story.

“We are estimating that on election night we will have reports on tabulations of about 70 percent of all the ballots,” Kimsey said. “We will have updated preliminary reports daily following that, until we get through them all.”

The stakes

The last presidential election was 1,455 days ago. In that time, the country saw a sweeping tax cut, sustained protests, three Supreme Court appointments, an impeachment and a pandemic. Americans watched their economy roar, then take a COVID-19 nosedive, and partially recover even as the virus continues to spread.

Through it, Southwest Washington hung on as one of the last enclaves for Republicans on the West Coast, beating back the blue wave that swept across much of the rest of the country.

Historically, individual Washington counties don’t have much of a say in presidential politics. Though swing counties like Clark might go for Donald Trump or Joseph Biden, Washington’s 12 Electoral College votes will almost certainly be blue.

But the impact of the presidential race will likely trickle down-ballot — the way Clark County residents cast their votes in congressional, state Legislature and even countywide races may well serve as a referendum on Trump’s first term.

It’s there, in those down-ballot races, that local voters will see a more direct impact of their ballot.

The congressional election is a rematch. Carolyn Long, a Democrat and professor of constitutional law at Washington State University Vancouver, is mounting her second challenge to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.

Most political pundits classify the 3rd Congressional District as a “Lean Republican” district, and forecasting website FiveThirtyEight gives Herrera Beutler an 83 percent chance of hanging on to her seat.

The congresswoman — who has the distinction of being both the only Republican House member still representing a district bordering the Pacific Ocean, and the only Republican woman of color in either chamber of Congress — won the district by around 16,000 votes in 2018.

In the Statehouse, the 17th, 18th and 49th Legislative Districts could also see a shakeup after Election Day.

Notably, seats in the 17th Legislative District may be competitive this year, though the region had previously been a fairly solid Republican country since 2012.

At the county level, a race for Clark County Council in District 3 between staunch conservative Karen Bowerman and liberal Democrat Jesse James will likely come down to who can court independent and moderate voters.

Track your ballot

Voters who have already returned their ballots can check its status by visiting voter.votewa.gov, logging into the voter portal with their name and birthday and clicking on the “Ballot Status” link on the far left side of the page. If their ballot is marked as “accepted,” it’s good to go.

If you’re registered to vote, but never got your ballot, it’s not too late. You can vote in-person at the county elections office, or get a replacement ballot online.

“You can go online and print out your ballot online at votewa.gov. Make sure you complete the entire package, including singing the oath that’s part of the package. You have to get that to a ballot drop box or postmarked by (today),” Kimsey said.

For those who still need to register to vote: Registration remains open in-person at the county elections office through 8 p.m. today. You’ll need to provide your name, date of birth, mailing and residential address, and either your driver’s license/state identification number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

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