Here's something for numbers geeks and political wonks to debate in discussing whether voter turnout (or turn-in) in Spokane County may be trending up. Tuesday's ballot count is the highest so far in this election.
As mentioned last week, the Tuesday after ballots go out is traditionally the heaviest day for ballots arriving in the county Elections Office until Election Day. That trend holds pretty steady in elections through 2006, and the theory is that voters who know who they want to cast a ballot for (or against) mark 'em and mail 'em right away. The rest of us delay for a number of reasons: We want to study the voters guide to figure out the difference between the two "get the state out of the liquor business" initiatives; we can't decide whether to write-in a drinking buddy's name for an uncontested race; we're waiting to see which Murray v. Rossi ad ticks us off most.
This year, however, today's count of 15,707 ballots was higher than last Tuesday's count of 12,104.
While that didn't happen in 2006, the last time there was a mid-term election, Elections Supervisor Mike McLaughlin did note there was a surge four years ago in the combined ballots from the first Monday and Tuesday (20,873) compared to the combined ballots of the second Monday and Tuesday (23,876). (The first two days of the week can be significant because voters may be doing their research on the weekends and mailing or dropping off ballots right after that. Tuesday figures include the ballots picked up at drop boxes on Monday.)
This year the surge is bigger, up from 18,259 ballots on Monday and Tuesday last week to 25,575 this week.
This could be a result of both parties urging their members to mark their ballots and send them in as soon as possible. Or it may be a move by exhausted voters to send off a ballot so they will be spared more robocalls and mailers targeted at slackers who haven't yet voted. (The campaigns get lists, you know.)
Raw numbers are one thing, percentages are something different, however. The total number of ballots received at this point in the two elections is within a few hundred. But there are about 25,000 more voters now, thanks in part to the big voter registration drives of 2008.
At this point in the 2006 election, 28.4 percent of the voters had cast ballots; final turnout was 68 percent. Thus far in 2010, 25.4 percent of the voters have cast ballots, and extrapolating a similar trend would have turnout in the range of about 61 percent.