Sunday, July 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Reed predicts good turnout for primary election

Washington’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Sam Reed, is predicting a better-than-usual turnout for the Top 2 Primary that is underway. Reed forecasts a 46 percent turnout – better than the 43 percent average for comparable years in recent decades when voters decide on the governor and president. It would be the best voter participation for a primary since 1980, when it was 48 percent.

“The people of Washington are pretty revved up by the campaigns and issues this year and that should result in a darned good turnout, starting with our primary election,” Reed said. “We have an extremely competitive presidential race nationally and the media, campaigns, parties and special interest groups have been flooding us with campaign coverage and voter information.

“Likewise, in this state, we have one of the nation’s hottest races for governor and we have an unusually high number of open statewide elective offices, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor. 

The two main candidates for governor are Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee. McKenna is the state attorney general, while Inslee recently stepped down from the seat in the U.S. House of Representative he had held for many years.

Reed noted that voters will be electing new members of Congress, following the recent redistricting that created a new district and the announcements by Inslee and longtime Congressman Norm Dicks that they would not seek reelection.

“A U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot and people are already buzzing about our ballot measures that are on tap for November. Our Legislature, the courts and other important state and local offices also offer lots of excitement. Some judges, including the Supreme Court, essentially can be elected in the primary by taking more than 50 percent of the vote.

“As always, I hold out hope that turnout will be even better than I am predicting. After watching democracy on the march around the world, and people’s enthusiasm for casting their ballots, I am struck more than ever with just how significant a privilege it is to vote.  This is the first presidential election year where all counties have moved to vote-by-mail and we offer assistance to voters with handicaps, and we are doing significant voter outreach.”

Military and overseas ballots were mailed first. Other voters began receiving their ballots earlier this month. Ballots must be postmarked by Primary Day, Aug. 7, or placed in a drop box by then.

Since 1988, turnout for state primaries averages 43 percent. A high turnout year was 1992, at 45.8 percent.  That was also a politically revved up year that included a new 9th Congressional District following the 1990 Census.

The following are turnouts in years with presidential elections: 1988, 41.61 percent; 1992, 45.80 percent; 1996, 42.06 percent; 2000, 40.80 percent; 2004, 45.14 percent; 2008, 42.60 percent.