Voter turnout in Washington hit 84.1%, just shy of record

Washington state nearly reached its highest voter turnout in 2020
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Ben Gray

Workers sort and stack ballots in preparation for scanning during a recount on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020 (Photo by Ben Gray)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — There were a record number of voters participating in this month’s election, but the overall turnout percentage fell just shy of the record 84.6% set in 2008.

While 84.8% of the state’s nearly 4.9 million voters returned a ballot for the Nov. 3 general election, the final rate Tuesday hit 84.1% after county canvassing boards reviewed ballots that were challenged over issues like signatures or postmarks. Tuesday was the last day for the counties to finish their work and certify the results.

Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman plans to certify the election on Dec. 1, a few days before the Dec. 3 deadline.

“This election is a real testament to how engaged voters were and how well county elections officers did their jobs,” Wyman said.

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More than 4.1 million voters cast a ballot this year, compared to the 3 million cast in 2008.

Of the state’s 39 counties, 32 had turnout of more than 80%, and six topped 70%. The only county to top 90% turnout was San Juan, which saw nearly 91% of its 14,642 voters return a ballot. The counties with the lowest turnout were Adams and Yakima, with just over 75% turnout.

In the 2016 election, turnout in vote-by-mail Washington was just under 79%, with more than 3.3 million ballots cast.

The high interest in the general election came after the state in August saw its highest primary turnout in more than five decades, with nearly 55% of voters returning their ballots.

Wyman said the increase in voter numbers is due in part to the population increase in the state over the years, as well as voter access laws, including same-day registration. She said that, coupled with a year where voters weighed in on a lengthy ballot that included races for president and governor, it showed that “people believe that their vote is going to make a difference and they care about the issue or the candidate.”

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