Candidates for Washington’s top electoral prize, a U.S. Senate seat that could determine which party controls that chamber of Congress for the next two years, started their full final day of the campaign at dawn, on opposite sides of the state.
Republican challenger Dino Rossi had breakfast at a downtown diner, greeting the morning crowd at the counter and telling eight longtime supporters “We’re getting there.” Rossi said he tries to stop at Frank’s Diner just south of the Maple Street Bridge whenever he’s in town. After fueling up with a full breakfast, Rossi caught a plane to the Tri-Cities, where he’ll be waving signs in Kennewick mid-morning then attending a lunchtime “meet and greet” in Everett before attending the vote-watch party in Bellevue this evening.
Democratic incumbent Patty Murray was on “dawn patrol”, greeting ferry commuters at the Seattle docks at 6:30 a.m. She’s scheduled to meet volunteers in Everett mid-morning, in Tacoma at 11:15 a.m. and attend the election night party at the Westin Hotel in Seattle.
Around Spokane, morning commuters passed candidates and their supporters waving signs at intersections in a last attempt to drum up extra votes. Washington state election officials estimate that more than half the voters who are going to vote have already sent in their ballots, but that still leaves a large bloc of voters who still have ballots that were mailed to them sitting around the home somewhere.
Idaho voters go to the polls, which are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and under a new law must show ID when getting their ballot. Residents who have not registered, but who have lived in the state for at least 30 days and are American citizens, can register and vote by bringing a government-issued photo identification and proof of residency to their local polling place.
Washington state elections officials are estimating that two out of three registered voters will send in ballots — or in the case of Pierce County, which still has poll site voting, go to the polls.
Turnout in Spokane County hit 44 percent Monday, or about 117,000 votes, with ballots brought in by mail or deposited in drop boxes. In King County, where about one out of every three voters in Washington state lives, elections officials had received about 36 percent, or 400,000 ballots, by Monday and projected a turnout of about 68 percent when all ballots come in.
First tallies from around the state are expected shortly after 8 p.m. tonight, but close races might not be decided for days, or even weeks, as ballots continue to arrive by mail. Unlike most states, Washington only requires ballots be postmarked by Election Day, not in election officials’ hands. In 2004, the race for governor between Rossi and Christine Gregoire wasn’t decided until after two recounts — Rossi finished on top in the first tally and first recount, Gregoire won the second recount — and was not really final until after Republicans lost a legal challenge.
If the Rossi-Murray numbers are close tonight, both parties will have extra volunteers watching vote-counting around the state, and likely lawyers available to challenge any questionable ballot.