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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

5 p.m. turnout update: Less than 1 ballot in 4 has come back

Less than one ballot in four has made its way back to a local elections office as of 5 p.m. today, the Secretary of State's office said.

Statewide, turnout -- or probably more properly turn in, since people don't go to the polls in Washington -- stood at 23.6 percent at the 5 p.m. count. There's another three hours for people to take their ballots to a drop box, but getting a postmark on a mail in ballot is going to be difficult. 

Turnout in Spokane County was close to the state average of 23.5 percent.

Ballots mailed today usually show up on Wednesday or Thursday. Drop boxes will be emptied a final time at 8 p.m. The return rate will go up, but by how much is anyone's guess.

Absent a big surge, however, the return rate might be below 2012, when it was at 38.5 percent.  It's almost certainly not going to hit 42.6 percent like it did in 2008.

If it's low, political experts will likely dissect some obvious problems with an election the first week in August. 

First the ballots arrive in mid July, and they're in voters' homes during prime vacation season. 

Second, the political discussion right now revolves around the presidential race, with both major political parties holding their conventions. The ballot has some high profile offices like U.S. senator and governor, but many more low profile offices like state auditor and superintendent of public instruction. (This is not to suggest those offices are unimportant, only that they are rarely the prime reason a voter marks a ballot.)

Finally, the general opinion that voters don't focus on the November election until after Labor Day and the kids are back in school may  be overly simplistic and doesn't hold true for everyone, but it still has some validity.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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