Ballots in from 56% of expected Wash. voters

OLYMPIA — More than half of Washington state’s expected voters already have returned their ballots to elections officials, a day before Election Day.

A county-by-county assessment by the Associated Press found that as of Monday, more than 1.7 million ballots had been returned.

Secretary of State Sam Reed predicts 83 percent turnout statewide — about 3 million people — so about 56 percent of the expected voters have sent back their ballots.

Ballots were sent out Oct. 17, and must be postmarked by today.

Thirty-seven of the state’s 39 counties are voting entirely or nearly entirely by mail, including Snohomish County. King and Pierce counties still have poll sites, though a majority of voters in those counties already vote by mail.

In rural Columbia County, where elections officials have predicted a 92 percent turnout, more than 70 percent of the county’s approximately 2,500 voters have returned their ballots.

“Our turnouts are typically high, but that is really good,” said Naedene Shearer, chief deputy auditor.

King County, the state’s most populous county, has 1.1 million voters and is predicting an 85 percent turnout. Some other counties are predicting a turnout as high as 90 percent.

The average statewide general election turnout since 1936 is 78.85 percent. The record turnout in modern times was 84.5 percent in 1944.

King County elections officials said they plan to be able to count all the expected 286,800 poll votes on Election Day, as well as 100,000 mail ballots. Following that, they expect to count 90,000 to 100,000 mail votes daily.

Reed has cautioned that voters shouldn’t expect to know definitive results on election night because much of the state’s vote is still outstanding, and because King County’s results will come in slower than the rest of the state.

“Unless the outcome of the race is very lopsided, it could change as more ballots come in,” he said.

About a third of the American electorate was expected to vote before Election Day, largely to avoid long lines at the polls.

More than 29 million people in 30 states have already voted, according to partial state and county data provided to the AP, and that number was projected to rise to 44 million out of 137 million total votes nationally, according to estimates by Edison Media Research and George Mason University political scientist Michael McDonald.

That would be an early vote of 32 percent of this year’s electorate, up from 22 percent in 2004 and 15 percent in 2000.

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