WALLA WALLA — Columbia County led the state in early ballot returns, reaching a turnout rate of 49.5% as of Tuesday, Nov. 7, according to early totals.
About 1,417 ballots have been returned, and 1,401 were counted as of Tuesday for a turnout of 48.9%, according to preliminary election results.
In Clark County, 88,137 ballots out of 332,317 eligible voters were cast last week, for a turnout of 26.52%.
That number will rise in the following days, as ballots deposited in drop boxes are inventoried and more continue to arrive by mail.
Will Hutchens, the county’s auditor, said the election office collected about 285 ballots from local collection boxes around 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Election supervisor Cathy Abel was working to get those processed before tabulating results at 8 p.m., Hutchens said.
With the Veterans Day holiday and mail-in ballots expected to trickle in over the next couple of days, Columbia County isn’t expected to update its results until next week, Hutchens said.
“I would expect more (ballots) over the next couple days in the mail, postmarked by Election Day,” he said.
And because Hutchens’ name is on the ballot — he’s unopposed for the seat he was appointed to in March by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners — he is mostly observing the process.
“I am learning a lot from afar,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I am watching the scanning and how they check the ballots.”
He said he has also helped verify signatures. That’s the first step of the process, with ballots still enclosed in envelopes.
Turnout in Walla Walla County
Walla Walla County had a turnout rate of 28.36% as of election night, according to early totals.
More than 10,549 ballots have been returned, and 8,131 were counted as of Tuesday for a turnout rate of about 21.9%, according to preliminary results.
Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin said Tuesday night that the ballot totals will keep going up.
“All I can tell you is that it looked like there were a lot of people dropping ballots off throughout the day here into our ballot boxes,” she said. “I’m sure the others were busy as well.”
At least 119 Columbia County ballots and 1,700 Walla Walla County ballots remained to be counted as of election night, but that number will change.
Ballots sent by mail and postmarked by Election Day will arrive over the next few days and have yet to be factored in. Those collected from drop boxes Tuesday also still have to be inventoried.
The deadline to certify election results is Tuesday, Nov. 28.
Walla Walla County has 37,213 voters in this election, while Columbia County has 2,863.
As one of the state’s least populous counties, Columbia County regularly finds itself among the counties with the top ballot return rates in Washington.
Columbia County’s turnout rate in 2021, the last off-year general election, was the highest in the state at 60.6%, according to the Office of the Secretary of State.
In 2019, the county’s turnout rate was the second highest in the state at 59.3%.
Walla Walla County had general election turnout rates of 44.5% in 2021 and 43.9% in 2019, according to the Office of the Secretary of State.