Monday, December 5, 2022
Dec. 5, 2022

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Which Washington counties saw highest voter turnout in 2022 primary?

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About 40 percent of 4.8 million registered voters in Washington participated in the Aug. 2 midterm primary election, with the highest turnouts recorded in east and far west parts of the state.

The turnout for these primary races for state lawmakers and members of the U.S. House and Senate was about the same as 2018, when 40.8 percent of voters turned in their ballots.

About half of Washington’s voters, 2.4 million people, are concentrated in the Puget Sound region, where a median 37.3 percent participated in the primary election, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. In the 2018 primary, the region recorded a marginally higher voter turnout of 38.6 percent.

King County, which has 1.3 million registered voters, recorded a turnout of over 38 percent for the primary — a significant decline from 2018, when the turnout was over 50 percent.

Spokane County, which has the largest number of registered voters in Eastern Washington, recorded a higher voter turnout of about 40 percent, witnessing a drop since 2018 (45 percent), when the region trailed King County.

Results for the Aug. 2 primary election will be certified by the Clark County canvassing board today, bringing to an end any speculation over which candidates will move on to the general election in November.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said Monday the elections office had tallied about 400 ballots that day and would post updated results shortly after 5 p.m. even though election outcomes wouldn’t change.

Early on, Kimsey estimated voter turnout for the primary would be between 40-45 percent. In the end, voter turnout was 43.6 percent with just more than 142,000 voters (including Monday’s ballots) of the county’s 325,231 registered voters casting ballots.

“We generally see more turnout in the midterm primaries than we do in the odd-numbered years,” Kimsey said.

The last midterm primary in 2018 had a voter turnout of 36.13 percent and the 2014 midterm primary drew 28.61 percent of voters.

When comparing voter turnout, Kimsey said it is important to compare similar elections.

“Every election is different, but these midterms are more comparable than primaries in odd-numbered years,” he said. “And they’re different than primaries when the president is being elected.”

With several key races, such as the 3rd Congressional District, Clark County sheriff and three county council seats, on the November ballot, Kimsey said he expects voter interest to remain high but said it was too soon for a prediction. Voter turnout for the 2018 general election was 69.51 percent.

“We think it will be higher (than the primary). I think the sheriff’s office race is going to get a lot of attention,” Kimsey said.

What was different in this year’s primary was the large number of ballots that came in late. The elections office received 92,275 ballots from Aug. 1 through Aug. 3, 65 percent of all ballots cast. The late-arriving ballots also meant election results took longer to post.

Kimsey said he expects that trend to continue into the November general election and planned to bring in extra staff to help speed things along.

“We’re making a number of changes. We’re trying to bring in additional signature verification staff, we’ll bring in people for a phone bank, we’re trying to hire people for the front counter and we’re trying to fill a vacant position in the office,” he said.

While he understands some people may want to hold onto their ballots until the end, Kimsey cautioned it could mean trouble if your ballot is challenged.

Ballots are typically challenged if the signature on the ballot doesn’t match the signature on record, or the signature is missing from the return envelope.

“You’re going to have less time to cure that issue if you cast your ballot on the last day or the day before,” Kimsey said.

To be counted in the election results, challenged ballots must be corrected by the day before elections results are certified.

Information for the November general election, such as a sample ballot and online voters’ guide, will be posted on the elections website in the coming weeks. For more information, go to https://clark.wa.gov/elections.

-- Shari Phiel

Regionally, counties in Central and Eastern Washington recorded the greatest dip in voter turnout this primary election compared to 2018.

Yakima County led that pack as more than two-thirds of 127,000 registered voters did not participate in the primary this year. This is a 25 percentage-point drop from 2018.

Pend Oreille County in the east followed, with a 23 percentage-point drop in voter turnout compared to 2018.

Nearly half the counties in the state recorded a drop in turnout this year compared to 2018, and a few saw a significant swell of voters.

The greatest increases were recorded in Lincoln County in the east, Pacific and Jefferson in the west, and San Juan County in the north. Registered voters in these counties account for just over 1 percent of registered voters in the state. With an increased turnout this primary, they accounted for nearly 2 percent of the ballots counted this election.

Since 2014, when the state recorded its lowest voter turnout in a midterm primary (31.2 percent), voter participation has consistently declined in Yakima and Franklin counties in the south central region. At the same time, turnout in southwest Wahkiakum County and central Okanogan County has particularly grown.

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