Spokane County has a record number of registered voters this year, but unlike most presidential years that may not result in record turnout.
A comparison of ballots returned through Tuesday with the same period in 2008 shows Spokane is significantly behind 2008. It is, however, ahead of the rates in the last two non-presidential years with other partisan races, 2006 and 2010.
State elections officials, who were predicting this year would fall behind the 2008 record for ballots cast, now say they may have to revise their forecast upward. Ballot returns in some of the state’s other large counties are in line with four years ago.
On Tuesday, a week before the deadline for mailing or depositing ballots in drop boxes, Spokane County had received 88,326 ballots, which represent 31.3 percent of the county’s registered voters. One week before the election deadline in 2008, they’d received 95,369 ballots, or 36.8 percent of registered voters. County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin doesn’t think this is necessarily a sign that voters are less interested in this year’s presidential election.
“They’re voting later,” McLaughlin said. “I think the initiatives are slowing some people down.”
The state ballot contains measures on such controversial topics as same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, charter schools and supermajority requirements for taxes.
There are also some technical issues like changes to the state debt limit and to investment restrictions for the state’s two largest universities.
Katie Blinn, state co-director of elections, isn’t sure if the wide array of ballot measures is delaying some voters. But two advisory measures are causing confusion: “It’s about the only thing we’re getting calls on, in terms of the content of the ballot.”
Advisory Vote 1 involves the Legislature’s decision to end a tax break for large banks on mortgage interest, and Vote 2 involves the lowering and extension of a tax on petroleum products.
A 2007 initiative requires the votes, but it doesn’t allow the state voters guide to provide much information, or statements for and against the laws.
The Legislature is not bound by the results.
The measures are the first things on the ballot, and Blinn said there may be some voter fatigue that will cause some to “just give up and skip to the presidential election.”