Many people call today election day.
However, ballots were mailed out nearly three weeks ago, and people have been returning them ever since. So there’s really no such thing as an election “day” in Washington.
More precisely, today is the deadline for getting those ballots marked, sealed, signed and returned. They can be deposited in drop boxes before 8 p.m., or mailed, providing they are postmarked by this evening.
Voters just now opening their ballots may discover a plethora of unfamiliar candidates running for a wide variety of state offices.
The governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor are all leaving office at the end of the year, sparking more interest than usual in those jobs. Gov. Chris Gregoire, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Auditor Brian Sonntag are all retiring.
Attorney General Rob McKenna is locked in a high-profile gubernatorial race against former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. They share the governor’s slot on the ballot with seven others.
Seven people want to replace Reed, including a sitting state senator, Jim Kastama; a former state senator, Kathleen Drew; the current Thurston County auditor, Kim Wyman; and a former Seattle mayor, Greg Nickels. A pair of King County Council members, Bob Ferguson and Reagan Dunn, want McKenna’s job, as does private attorney Stephen Pidgeon. Three Democratic legislators, Troy Kelley, Mark Miloscia and Craig Pridemore, want the auditor’s job, as does business consultant James Watkins.
The ballot also has races closer to home. All state representatives and half the state senators are up for re-election this year, but few races are so hotly contested that anyone will be ousted in the primary. Central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District, though, has a five-way race for an open House seat, and the 6th Legislative District, which covers south, west and northwest Spokane and parts of the West Plains, has a four-candidate race for an open House seat.
Washington’s primary sends the top two vote-getters to the general election regardless of party. Usually that means one Republican and one Democrat, but occasionally it results in two members of the same party running against each other in the general election.
Some nonpartisan offices also are on the ballot. A candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote in most nonpartisan races advances to the general election ballot by themselves, making them all but certain to win in November.