Early voter turnout in Clark County rose to 16.68 percent Tuesday in the highest single-day voter turnout on any non-Election Day in the county’s history.
A whopping 37,289 voters submitted their ballots between Monday and Tuesday. With just under two weeks to go before Election Day, 53,198 of the county’s 318,966 total eligible voters had already cast their ballots.
The early turnout figures are unprecedented, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said. No other election since the county started transitioning to vote-by-mail in 1996 has seen voter turnout this high, this early — not by a long shot.
“Except for Election Day, that’s the greatest number of ballots we’ve ever had in one day,” Kimsey, a Republican, told The Columbian on Tuesday.
In 2016, for example, voters had returned 29,734 ballots by this point in the election, or a little more than half of the current early turnout. That also holds true with previous presidential elections; by this point in 2012, 33,936 people had voted. In 2008, only 14,369 ballots had been cast by now.
The Clark County Elections Office is anticipating a 90 percent voter turnout by Nov. 3, which would also be record-smashing. The previous record was set in 2008, when 85 percent of registered voters showed up for the presidential election.
Kimsey said his office has seen a heightened level of anxiety among voters this year who are worried that their ballots won’t count. A surge of people have asked if they can come into the elections office and vote in person, which is unusual, he added.
To clarify, Kimsey said, voters can choose to come wait in line to vote in person on Nov. 3, or fill out their ballot at the elections office at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver and drop it off ahead of time. But it’s not functionally any different than voting at home.
“They will be voting the same ballot that’s mailed to them,” Kimsey said.
He chalks up the unusual, widespread anxiety among voters to remarks from national politicians disparaging the vote-by-mail system. (Those attacks are unfounded — multiple studies from nonpartisan and right-leaning think tanks have found that the fraudulent voting rate among mail-in ballots is less than one millionth of a percentage point).
Recent reports of cutbacks to the nationwide postal system could also be fueling the unease, he added. In the past, Kimsey has said that he’s confident that the U.S. Postal Service will be able to handle the volume of ballots leading up to Nov. 3.
“I’ll speculate that there’s been so much criticism in the media by leaders of our country that voters shouldn’t trust vote-by-mail elections, that somehow they think coming to the elections office to vote their ballot, (then) their ballot is more secure than if they vote their ballot at home,” Kimsey said.
The silver lining is that the widespread anxiety appears to be translating into early ballots, which Kimsey said is the best way that nervous voters can ensure that their vote gets counted. If there’s a problem with a ballot — a signature mismatch, for example — voting early means that there’s still plenty of time to fix the problem.
“People are concerned about their ballot being received by the elections office. If they vote early, they have lots of time to go and confirm their ballot was received,” Kimsey said.
For those who have already cast their ballots, they can check its status at voter.votewa.gov. Log in with your full name and birthday, and then click on the link for “Ballot status” on the far left edge of the screen. It takes three to four days for ballots to be posted as returned.
This is the final day that Clark County residents should expect to see a ballot in their mailboxes. If a registered voter hasn’t yet received their ballot as of today, they should contact the Clark County Elections Office immediately at 564-397-2345 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I still register to vote?
Yes. Clark County residents can register to vote up to and including Election Day.
They have three options:
•Online, until Oct. 26. This option is only available to those with a valid Washington state driver's license, permit or identification card. Visit voter.votewa.gov.
•Via mail, until Oct. 26. No Washington state driver's license or ID required. Visit sos.wa.gov/elections/print-voter-registration-forms.aspx, print out the voter registration form, fill it out, and mail it to P.O. Box 8815 Vancouver, WA 98666-8815.
•In person, until 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Visit the Clark County Elections Office at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver.