Secretary of State predicts near-record voter turnout

Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting a strong 83 percent voter turnout for the General Election, the best showing in more than 60 years. His forecast comes when mail ballots are being sent to most of Washington’s 3.5 million registered voters.

The better-than-average turnout is based on a high degree of interest in the top races and assorted state and local ballot measures, the recent surge in registrations, increasingly heavy use of convenient vote-by-mail, and strong forecasts from the County Auditors, Reed said Monday. Six counties say their vote should be 90 percent or higher.

“It’s hard to imagine a more interesting and important General Election,” said Reed. “People are intrigued by the wide-open presidential race during wartime and the national and international economic crisis. This truly has the makings of a watershed election year, and we hope voters will make every effort to take part. We would hate to see anyone left out.”

Reed and state Elections Director Nick Handy noted that Washington now has more registered voters than at any time in state history — over 3.5 million people. The previous record set in 2004 was eclipsed last week, and was doubly remarkable because about 482,000 registrations have been cancelled since the state’s new database was inaugurated in January of 2006.

Ballots and state Voters’ Pamphlets will begin arriving in mailboxes this week.

A survey of counties by the state Elections Division showed a collective prediction of an 85 percent turnout. The statewide General Election turnout average since 1936 is 78.85 percent. The previous record in modern times was the 84.5 percent back in 1944.

This year, 37 of Washington’s 39 counties are voting entirely by mail, although King and Pierce will be offering poll-site voting for people who are not signed up as vote-by-mail residents. The shift to mail voting has been swift in Washington. In 2004, only five counties had opted to switch to mail voting. Today, most voters, including King and Pierce voters, are casting ballots by mail. In the August primary, 95 percent of all votes were submitted by mail. Turnout among vote-by-mail citizens was 47 percent; only 16 percent of the poll-site voting bloc went to the polls.