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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Turnout down statewide ahead of Election Day but late surge in returns could mean late results

Election Day is finally here, and voters in Washington only have a few more hours to get their ballots in to be counted for this year’s midterms.

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their ballots to a drop box or a county elections office. On the ballot this year are a number of Congressional, legislative and county seats, and if early polls and turnout numbers are any indication, Tuesday night could hold a number of surprises.

But don’t be fooled by Tuesday’s initial results as they could only reflect a small number of ballots returned.

Going into the weekend, turnout statewide was down significantly compared to previous years. As of Friday, about 32% of voters statewide had returned a ballot compared to almost 39% the Friday before Election Day in 2018.

Turnout was up slightly on Monday, when the state reported almost 39% of voters had returned a ballot. That number is still lower than the 47.7% one day before the election four years ago.

In Spokane, the gap is narrower – almost 43% of voters returned their ballot as of Monday, compared to about 45% this time in 2018.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said turnout has been pretty steady this year but that they did receive fewer ballots than normal in the mail on Monday.

“That could be an indication of a few people holding back and waiting until Election Day,” she said.

Dalton said she is expecting a lot of people visiting their elections office in person on Tuesday, either to vote in person, to get a replacement ballot or to register to vote.

She encouraged people who still have their ballots to use county drop boxes rather than bringing them in person to the elections office.

For a full list of drop box locations, visit the elections page of the Spokane County Auditor’s Office website,

Those who choose to mail their ballot through the U.S. Postal Service should check the time of pickup on their mailbox, as ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Tuesday to be counted.

With a late surge of ballots expected, Dalton said results on election night will likely not reflect the full picture.

The county gets about 50% of ballots on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of election week, and those ballots take at least a day or two to be processed and counted, she said.

That means it’s going to be at least Friday before the vast majority of ballots have been counted.

“People who think they can drop ballot off at 8 o’clock on election night and think it will be included in results on election night really may not understand all of the steps that their envelope and their ballot goes through after they drop it off,” Dalton said. “The results you see on Tuesday night are by no means enough to determine the outcome of the races.”

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.