San Juan County among tops for state voter turnout
September 16, 2008 · Updated 8:54 PM
Secretary of State Sam Reed has certified the results of the state’s Aug. 19 Primary Election, in which nearly 43 percent of registered voters had their voices heard.
“While the voter turnout for this year’s primary was slightly below what I predicted, I’m still very impressed with the strong turnout last month,” Reed said.
“When you consider that there were no U.S. Senate races or any hot statewide primary races this year to bring out more voters, it was a good turnout, especially compared to other states that held primaries this year.”
Voter turnout was far smaller in other states that had primaries this year, including Alabama (15.1 percent), California (28.2 percent), Connecticut (14 percent), Iowa (9.2 percent) Michigan (20 percent), Missouri (19 percent), Nevada (18 percent), North Dakota (20.7 percent), South Carolina (20.3 percent) and Utah (8 percent).
The turnout for mail-in voters statewide was 47 percent. Turnout for poll-site voters was 16 percent. Only King and Pierce counties still use poll-site voting.
Even with few ultra-competitive races, this year’s voter turnout for the Aug. 19 primary exceeded the 30-year average even-year primary turnout of 39 percent.
The Honor Roll: Four counties topped the 60 percent mark – Columbia, Jefferson, Lincoln and San Juan – and 15 other counties had turnout of greater than 50 percent. They were Clallam, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Kittitas, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Skagit, Stevens and Wahkiakum. Four other counties almost made the 50 percent mark – Benton, Chelan, Douglas and Kitsap.
As the Office of Secretary of State’s Elections Division prepares for the General Election, Reed is pleased that Washington voters indicated that they were happy with the Top 2 Primary system, which made its debut last month after a four-year battle to implement it after state voters resoundingly approved it through Initiative 872 in 2004.
The new system allows voters to choose a favorite for each office, without regard to party, and the two top vote-getters move forward to the General Election. Parties do not “own” a nomination for each office and in a relatively small number of cases, voters have chosen finalists who prefer the same party.
“Our office didn’t receive any complaints from voters about the Top 2 Primary, and county auditors didn’t pass along any criticism of the Top 2 either,” Reed said in a press release. “As the recent Elway Poll indicates, nearly 80 percent of respondents like the Top 2. I’m very optimistic it is here to stay.”
The closest statewide election between two eventual November competitors was for governor. Final, official returns showed Gov. Christine Gregoire with 696,306 votes, or 48.27 percent, to former state Sen. Dino Rossi’s 668,571 votes, or 46.35 percent. In the 2004 General Election, Gregoire was elected by 133 votes after three counts and a court challenge were concluded.
Three state Supreme Court incumbents were essentially elected to new six-year terms. No one filed against the newest member, Debra Stephens, and Justices Mary Fairhurst and Charles Johnson captured more than 50 percent of the vote in their races and will advance to the General Election ballot alone. Write-ins are possible.
General election ballots will be mailed out to vote-by-mail citizens around Oct. 17-20. Eligible Washington residents 18 and older may register online or by mail by Oct. 4. Eligible voters not currently registered in Washington may register in person at their local Auditor’s Office by Oct. 20.