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Varying turnout meant some legislative incumbents were defeated by tiny slices of electorate…

Widely varying turnout around the state meant that of the six legislative incumbents defeated in the May 20 primary, two were turned out of office by just tiny slices of the electorates in their districts. The lowest-turnout races that dumped incumbents were the defeat of longtime Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the Senate Education Committee chairman, by activist Mary Souza – in which just 3,440 people cast ballots, 15 percent of registered voters; and the defeat of freshman Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, by Eric Redman, in which 4,736 people voted, 18.5 percent of the registered voters in the district.

Goedde’s districts has 22,545 registered voters; Morse’s has 25,604.

GOP primary voters also ousted longtime Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; longtime Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis; and freshman Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg. But those races saw considerably higher turnout. Hancey’s race had close to the state average turnout in the race, at 25 percent of registered voters. Barrett’s had 32 percent – 8,356 total ballots cast – in her defeat by rancher Merrill Beyeler; and Pearce’s saw 31.5 percent turnout in his defeat by Abby Lee. BSU professor emeritus Jim Weatherby said both Beyeler and Lee ran strong campaigns in their districts.

In Eskridge’s race, there was 29 percent turnout and a total of 7,166 ballots cast as voters chose tea party challenger Sage Dixon to replace the longtime lawmaker and joint budget committee member. Eskridge noted two factors: Tea party opponents had been organizing and campaigning against the incumbents in his district for months; and the ballot included two hotly contested local levies, one for West Bonner schools that passed by 22 votes, and one to expand the Bonners Ferry library, which failed. “I think a lot of the people that came out in opposition to the levy voted against us,” he said.

Incumbent Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, won her primary by a 487-vote margin; retiring Rep. Eric Anderson’s race saw a tea party candidate, Heather Scott, victorious in the GOP primary over Stephen Snedden, who’d been endorsed by Gov. Butch Otter. Eskridge said while opponents were highly motivated, he also heard from some of his supporters that they weren’t willing to vote in the primary because they didn’t like being forced to publicly register their party affiliation under the GOP’s closed primary rule. “One said, ‘I refused to sign my name as a Republican, even though that’s what I am,’” he said.

Vote today - fight the trend toward decreasing turnout in Idaho primary elections…

At my local polling place this morning, things seemed pretty slow. There were one or two other voters there when I arrived; none when I left. Poll workers said it’d been steady all morning, with a slow but near-constant trickle of voters showing up; there was no before-work rush. There certainly were no lines.

Voter turnout in Idaho’s primary elections has been declining for years, even as general-election turnout has remained relatively strong. Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is projecting a turnout of 27 percent today, which would be an improvement from the 24 percent of registered voters who cast ballots two years ago, but only back up to the 2010 level. In the 2012 general election, turnout was 74 percent of registered voters.

Ten years ago, in 2004, primary turnout was 26.8 percent, general election was 76.8 percent. In 1994, primary turnout was 33.3 percent, general was 67 percent.

“The numbers in terms of turnout are very discouraging,” said Boise State University professor emeritus Jim Weatherby. “When it comes to the general election, people in Idaho seem to think that’s the real election, and in many races it isn’t. In 1980, 34 years ago, there were 200,000 ballots cast (in the primary).” At that point, with Idaho’s lower population, that was a 41.34 percent turnout. “I think we’re hoping, 34 years later, that there will be 200,000 ballots cast or a few more,” Weatherby said, to make 27 percent. “It’s a sad commentary on our level of participation in primary elections, and they’ve been dropping over the years – when in many races this is the de facto election. That’s true in a one-party state.”

County primary turnout comes up deuces

Twenty-two point twenty.two

That's the percenage of turnout for those areas of Spokane County that had something on their ballot in the August primary.

About halfway between one voter in five and one voter in four.  Not quite abysmal, but definitely not very impressive.

Precinct-by-precinct, the results were pretty mixed. Highest turnout was in the town of Latah, where 72 of its 125 voters sent back a ballot, for a turnout of 57.6 percent. A three-way race for a town council seat was the big draw there.

Lowest turnout was in a northwest precinct of the city of Spokane Valley, which includes Mirabeau Park and homes south of the river. It managed only 60 ballots back of the 868 sent out, for 6.91 percent.

Primary turnout low one week out

Of the nearly 200,000 ballots Spokane County sent to voters this month, only about one in eight has come back in with one week left in the primary election for many local offices.

Admittedly the primary ballot in many areas is short. Only two of the City of Spokane's three council districts has a contested seat, and only one City of Spokane Valley council race is on that ballot.

The 7th Legislative District has a three-way race for the state Senate seat that was filled by an appointment early this year when long-time legislator Bob Morton retired mid-term. All three are Republicans, but under the state's election laws, the top two vote-getters move on to the general election.

While a ballot with few races often doesn't generate much excitement, on the plus side it is relatively quick to fill out, sign and mail in, or deposit at an assigned drop box.

In Spokane County, there's a drop box at all public libraries except — for this election only — the Cheney and Liberty Lake libraries. There's also one in the Spokane Transit Authority center in downtown Spokane. For information on drop boxes in other counties, click here.

For a list of addresses for Spokane County drop boxes, go inside the blog.

More signatures needed for initiatives

OLYMPIA — The turnout was down slightly in Washington state compared to the 2008 presidential election, but the number of ballots cast was up.

That means the number of signatures needed for initiatives and referenda goes up next year.

Huh? We explain inside the blog. Click here to read more, or to comment.

Mapping the vote: Spokane County turnout

Spokane County had a turnout of 80.5 percent in the general election, but as the map shows, turnout varied from precinct to precinct. 


Documents:

Spokane County turnout nearing 2008 level

Voter turnout — or ballot turn-in, if you prefer — has been lagging behind the 2008 record levels this year in Spokane County. Some times by as many as 7 percentage points in a comparison of days after ballots were mailed.

But Monday and Tuesday counts of ballots delivered by mail or picked up from drop boxes shows that gap is down to about 3 percentage points, and the total number of ballots in hand by noon on Election day is actually about 6,000 higher. (It's an arithmetic thing, as Bill Clinton might say. There are more voters registered, too, so the percent of ballots back so far remains lower than in 2008).

Considering that this is a total that doesn't have the final pickup from the drop boxes at 8 p.m., or the mail deliveries on Wednesday and Thursday, it looks like Spokane County is well on its way to having the more  ballots ever cast than in 2008, when it hiin an election. The percentage of ballots in to voters registered may or may not match 2008 levels, butit's clear there are going to be a heck of a lot of ballots to count.

Time to vote…

There was a half-hour wait to vote at my polling place this morning; one guy ahead of me in line gave up and left. A young mom with first-grader in tow waited all the way through the line, only to find out she wasn't in the book, though this was where she'd always voted; after much scrutinizing of maps, she was sent to a different polling place. There's high interest in today's election; many people's polling places have changed due to redistricting (mine had). You can confirm your polling place online before you go by going to www.idahovotes.gov and entering your address.

Lines are likely today if you go during the busiest times - before work, during the noon hour, or after 5, so allow time. (Oddly, at my polling place, the line was much longer for those whose names begin with A though L - I was one of the lucky M-through-Z'ers). And the ballot itself is quite long - two full legal-sized pages, front and back.

Gary Moncrief, a Boise State University political scientist who studies elections, said, “Turnout is going to be huge.” Asked his advice to voters, Moncrief said, “Bring a lunch - bring a snack. You may be in line a long time.”
  

It’s a wrap: Primary vote certified

Even the closest of races have been over for more than a week, but the process of reaching the final election tallies for the Washington state primary just concluded on Tuesday afternoon.

The final turnout: A lower than forecast 38.5 percent statewide, and 38.85 percent in Spokane County.

For a look at the race-by-race results, click here.

Primary turnout could be low

The presidential campaign has been in the news for months and political commercials are starting to crowd other products off the airwaves, but Washington's voters seem less enthusiastic than normal about next month's state primary.
Ballots that were mailed to overseas and military voters in late June and the rest of the state almost two weeks ago are coming back less quickly than normal in some counties, including Spokane.
Returns through the Monday are behind the pace for the same period in 2008, the last state primary in a presidential election year, data from Spokane County Elections Office show. They also trail returns for most primaries since.
“We wish we had more in,” Mike McLaughlin, supervisor of elections, said Monday…
  

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here go inside the blog.

State turnout for Nov. 8: 53 percent

OLYMPIA — Although Spokane County has some recounting to do, state officials certified the election results Monday for the Nov. 8 election.

Anyone paying any attention knows how things came out: Initiative 1183, that gets the state out of the liquor business, passed big time. I-1163, requiring training and background checks for home health care workers, passed even bigger time. I-1125, which put new limits on tolls for roads and bridges, failed. And a bunch of folks in cities and towns and districts all over the state got elected to various offices.

So what's the news here? The official state turnout — or turn in, considering the state conducts the entire ballot by mail so no one has to “turn out'' to a poll site — was 52.95 percent. That's about 6 percentage points higher than Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state's top elections official, predicted before the election.

Reed said the interest on the initiatives, and record spending on the liquor proposal raised the visibility of the issue and drove more turnout.

Highest turnout was 70 percent in San Juan County. Garfield, Lincoln and Pend Oreille counties were above 60 percent, and Spokane County came in at 56.5 percent.

And in case you're wondering, recounts don't effect turnout. Those ballots are already part of the total, whether they were marked for one candidate or the other…or neither.

One-third of Spokane ballots in

Spokane County Elections Office says it has received slighly more than 89,500 ballots, or 33.66 percent of all the ballots it sent out a couple weeks ago.

That's counting nearly 10,000 that came in today's mail or the pickup of weekend deposits in drop boxes.

For those who think a hot candidate race will definitely spur turnout, the numbers so far would suggest otherwise.

For example, the city of Spokane has a hotly contested mayor's race, a council president race and three contested city council races. It's turnout is 33.4 percent. The City of Spokane Valley has some contested council seats, turnout there is 33.24 percent.

The 4th Legislative District has one of the state's few off-year senate races. Turnout is 33.76 percent.

Town of Spangle, which has five council races on the ballot, but only one that's contested, turnout 45.8 percent. Orchard Prairie School District, three board seats on the ballot, none contested, 40.4 percent turnout.

Of course, one could note that Spangle and O.P. School District  registration numbers are so small that a handful of ballots boosts the turnout numbers. That's true, but the top part or the ballot is the same for everyone, with five statewide ballot measures and one county-wide proposal. And the process is the same for everyone: Fill out the ballot, put it in an envelope and mail it in or drop it off. For info on where to drop them, go here.

Unusual voting stat

A quick check of turnout through this morning at the Spokane County elections office reveals the following:

Turnout for the City of Spokane as a whole is 23 percent, which is nothing to write home about.

Turnout is lowest in the Council District 1, the Northeast District. It's at 19 percent, with slightly  more than half as many ballots turned in as the other two districts. Statistically, that's not a huge surprise, because District 1 usually  lags behind the other two council districts, and there are about 11,000 fewer registered voters in that district compared to the others.

What's unusual, however, is that District 1 has a council race on the ballot; it's the only district that has a council primary. So even with that incentive, turnout remains low.

There's still time to turn that around, though. Ballots can be marked, sealed and deposited in drop boxes until 8 p.m. Click here for a list of drop boxes throughout Spokane County.

Or you could put a stamp on the envelope and mail it, but take it to the post office to make sure it's postmarked today.

Official turnout: Lowest since ‘78

Idaho’s state Board of Canvassers met today to certify the results of the Nov. 2 election, and here’s the news: Just 58.1 percent of Idaho’s registered voters cast ballots. That’s the lowest turnout for a midterm election since 1978 (that year it was 56.51 percent), and well below the Idaho Secretary of State’s office forecast of 63 percent. That forecast, based in part on heavy early voting and fairly high interest in candidates and issues, simply was off, said Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, and it’s not clear why. The percentage of Idaho’s voting-age population that cast ballots, based on the official results and U.S. Census figures, came in at 40 percent, Hurst said. “It’s still the lowest in years,” he said. “People just for some reason didn’t show up. We’ve always talked about how candidates and issues are what get people out to vote, and we had candidates, we had issues, and nobody voted. I don’t have an explanation.”

One piece of good news from the final canvass of the election results: Nothing changed from the unofficial results the morning after the election. That means Idaho’s election-night count was accurate. Turnout figures as a percentage of registered voters aren’t apparent in those early results, because Idaho has same-day registration.

We’ll get the ballots counted — just chill

One sure sign that fall is easing into winter is that political types are complaining about how long it takes to count ballots in Washington state.

This rant usually starts about three days after an election, when the results of most races have been known for two days but a few close contests hang in the balance. This year, the main target of the whining is a state Supreme Court race, which on Friday was still somewhat in doubt.

If only Washington could be sensible like Oregon, the argument goes, and require mailed ballots to be at elections offices by Election Day, as opposed to simply post-marked by Election Day.

Since when did Oregon become such a paragon of electoral virtue? But it wouldn’t really help to make that switch, at least not without more money…Read why inside the blog.

Turnout higher than expected

OLYMPIA — Turnout for last Tuesday’s election is higher than expected and may set a record for a mid-year election, Secretary of State Sam Reed said today.

State elections officials were projecting a turnout of 66 percent for the mid-term, but are now revising that upwards to 70 percent or more. Both political parties had massive get out the vote efforts, both when ballots first arrived in mailboxes in mid October and again in the closing days of the campaign.

Coupled with a hot Senate race, some controversial tax and government limitation issues on the ballot and competitive congressional and legislative races around the state, turnout is pushing up toward the record for a mid-term set in 1970 of 71.85 percent.

Strong turnout predicted Tuesday

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s election, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is predicting strong voter turnout for a non-presidential year election, with 63 to 64 percent of registered voters casting ballots, “which would be our highest non-presidential year turnout since ‘94.”
 
“Candidates and issues make turnout,” Ysursa said, “and I think we’ve got competitive races out there that are driving the turnout.”     Among the many decisions awaiting Idaho voters are whether to keep or replace the state’s governor and members of Congress, four state constitutional amendments, races for an array of county and statewide offices, and votes on every seat in the state Legislature. There’s more information on all of those in our online Voter Guide here; and there’s info for voters on the state’s voter information site here.

Today’s ballot turn-in: 7,650

As suggested yesterday, Tuesday was likely the high-water mark for ballots being received in Spokane County for the next two weeks.

Today’s count was 7,650, down about 4,500 from Tuesday’s 12,104.

Highest turnout right now is in central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District, which is at about 11.2%, compared to 10.4% for the 4th District, 9.6% for the 6th District. 9.1% for the 7th District and 8.7% for the 9th District.

The 3rd District typically leads in turnout at the beginning of the turn-in, but drops to the bottom by election day.

Today’s an important day for this election

Today isn’t marked in red on calendars, but it is an important day for political candidates and the people who work for them.

It’s the first Tuesday after ballots were mailed out in Washington state. And it is traditionally the high-water mark for ballots coming into the county elections office until the actual election day.

Generally speaking, about a third of voters who are going to mark and cast ballots do so as soon as they get them or over that first weekend. So today is the day that ballots from people who live in the county and mailed by Monday are most likely arrive. Returns will trail off until the day before Election Day, if this year is at all typical (which, admittedly, is assuming facts not in evidence.)

Today’s count: 12,104 out of Spokane County’s 260,597 voters, or about 4.6% of those eligible.

In 2008, the first Tuesday ballot count for the presidential election was 18,965 ballots, or about 7.2 percent of 262,569 registered voters. The county went on to experience record-setting turnout with 222,065 ballots cast. The difference in first Tuesday ballot totals could numeric evidence that an “enthusiasm gap” does exist.

But there are two other sets of numbers to examine when looking at ballot returns and enthusiasm, the vote totals in the primaries.

In this August primary, the first Tuesday count was 11,083 out of the county’s 260,160 voters, or about 4.2%. By the end of the election, 113,090 people voted. In August 2008 (which, like this year did not  have a presidential race on that ballot, 8,665 out of the county’s 243,568 voters sent in their ballots, and 113,837 voted.


Mid-term turnout prediction for WA: 66%

OLYMPIA- About two out of three voters in Washington will cast ballots in the general election, Secretary of State Sam Reed predicted today.

That would be above average for the last four decades, and the most for a mid-term election since 1970. Four years ago, the mid-term general election turnout was 64.6 percent.

Reed and Elections Director Nick Handy have several reasons for guessing on the high side.

—There’s a hot U.S. Senate race between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi.
—There’s a lot of voter interest in general around the country.
—There’s a boatload of statewide initiatives.
—The primary generated a modern record in September.
—King County, the state’s most populous, has switched over to all-mail voting.

It’s still off considerably from 2008, when the state hit a record of 85 percent.


Younger voters stayed away in droves in primary

If you don’t like the choices produced by Washington’s Aug. 17 primary, you have two choices:
* Blame voters over 55, who cast most of the ballots.
* Blame under 35, who cast hardly any of them.
Figures released Tuesday by the Washington Secretary of State’s office show more than 60 percent of the ballots were cast by voters 55 and over. Only one voter in 10 was under 35.
While older voters are always more likely to cast ballots than younger voters, the primary numbers were more skewed than usual, state elections officials said.
“They’re not good,” Nick Handy, state elections director, said.
Broken down into age brackets, the turnout for the primary looks like this for the state (and Spokane County, which are nearly identical, are included in parenthesis)

18-24  4%  (4%)
25-34  6%  (6%)
35-44 10%  (10%)
45-54 19%  (20%)
55-64 26%  (27%)
65+     34%  (34%)

Older citizens have long been known to be more likely to register, and vote, Handy said. The rule of thumb is that 20 percent of 20 year-olds vote, 30 percent of 30-year-old, 40 percent of 40-year-olds, and so on.
The correlation between age and voting is pretty easy to understand, he added. Younger voters are less likely to be invested in political decisions because they don’t own property and don’t have children in school, and they tend to move around more.
And not much changes that from one year to the next. For all the talk about how Barack Obama energized young voters in 2008, the results didn’t really bear that out, Handy said.
“There was a small blip in turnout, but not anything dramatically out of the historic patterns.”
Still, the fact that only 10 percent of voters in this year’s primary were under 35 was a surprise to state officials. It may be that the primary ballot just didn’t have much to draw them in, Handy said.

Primary turnout tops 40 percent

OLYMPIA — Washington voters turned out in impressive numbers — impressive for a primary, anyway — in last week’s election.

With a few thousand ballots still to count, turnout stands at 40.46 percent, which state elections officials say is better than expected for an even but non presidential year primary. They’d been predicting 38 percent, but aren’t unhappy about being wrong on the low side.

Two years ago, with a bunch of statewide offices on the primary ballot and the excitement of a presidential race in the air (albeit not on the primary ballot), primary turnout hit 42.6 percent. That was the state’s first foray into the Top Two primary system; the primary in 2006, which like this year featured a U.S. Senate race, was 38.8. The 2002 primary, which had no Senate race, was 34.4 percent.

Something else happened in that interim: All the counties except Pierce County gradually went to all mail balloting.

So it would seem that  having a big statewide contest like a U.S. Senate race is good for an extra 2% or so in generating turnout, and mail balloting may be good for another 2%.

But the overall turnout suggests that the national pundits talk about disaffected voters may be as valid as their talk about anti-establishment trends, at least in Washington. If anything, ballots came in a little stronger than normal, and in the Senate race, more pro-establishment than anti-establishment, considering Republican Dino Rossi handily defeated insurgent Clint Didier, and Democrat Patty Murray pulled down 46 percent of the vote.

Looking forward to the general election, there may be one worrisome statistic for Rossi: He won three of the four counties with the highest turnout rates, but they’re fairly small counties as far as population and votes don’t have much room to grow in the general. Three of the four counties with the lowest turnout are where Murray did better, and they have the state’s highest population. One of them is King County, where she got twice as many votes, and only 37 percent of the voters cast ballots in the primary. 

Reed predicts 38 percent turnout

OLYMPIA — Slightly more than one Washingotn voter in three will mail back that ballot that arrived in the mail today or over the weekend, Secretary of State Sam Reed estimates.

Reed issued a turnout prediction of 38 percent for the Aug. 17 primary, which would be up toward the high end of the historic range. The average for a non-presidential even-year primary  is 34 percent, but the turnout in 2006 was 38 percent and conditions were pretty comparable to this year, he said.

Working in favor of better than average turnout is a hotly contested U.S. Senate race, an open Congressional seat in Southwest Washington’s 3rd District, some good legislative races around the state and some state Supreme Court races that can be decided in the primary, he said.

And there’s the energy the Tea Party movement seems to be bringing to the electorate and an anti-incumbent mood, State Elections Director Nick Handy added.

Spokane County Elections Office reports nearly 6,000 ballots back as of this morning, which is 2.3 percent of the 260,192 sent out.

There’s a map for: Spokane city turnout

Turnout in the city of Spokane for the Nov. 3 election averages just under 50 percent with just a few ballots yet to count.

But it varied significantly around the city, as is typical for most elections. This map divides the city’s precincts into four equal segments based on turnout and shows heavier turnout in the south and northwest, and light voting in the north central and northeast.

 

Spokane County turnout: 38.5% so far

Spokane voters seemed to spend a bit more time weighing their options this year. The two biggest days for ballots showing up at the elections office were yesterday and today.

The current ballot count stands at 98,968, which is 38.5 percent of all registered voters in the county. More than 39,000 of those ballots showed up in the last two days — and that doesn’t count the final pickups from drop boxes all over the county.

Could it be that some voters regretted voting too early in previous years, and held on to their ballots until closer to the deadline, to see how the campaigns played out? Hard to say, but it does seem to undercut the argument of some campaign operatives that so many resources should be targeted at the week the ballots get mailed out.

If tradition holds, biggest day for turnout will be tomorrow, when most ballots mailed yesterday and today get delivered.

For more on how the ballot turn-in count stands, go inside the blog.