EVERETT — State officials will lower the curtain on the presidential election Tuesday, a political drama in which voters of all ages in Snohomish County played a role.
Generations X and Z and Millennials showed up in greater numbers than ever before.
And they made their presence felt as the portion of votes cast by those under the age of 45 inched upward from 2016, according to data compiled by the offices of the Snohomish County auditor and the secretary of state.
“I think this trends well with the interest we have seen from younger people in social justice efforts, climate change and other important issues over the last several years,” said Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell.
Counties certified their results Tuesday, and Secretary of State Kim Wyman will certify the election next Tuesday.
Results show 84.1% of the state’s nearly 4.9 million registered voters cast a valid ballot in the Nov. 3 election, just shy of the record 84.6% attained in the 2008 presidential election.
In raw numbers, 4.1 million voters participated statewide, a new high mark for Washington.
Wyman said the increase in the number of voters is due in part to a growing population and expanded voter access laws, including same-day registration. Coupled with an opportunity to weigh in on races for president and governor, the turnout showed that “people believe that their vote is going to make a difference and they care about the issue or the candidate,” she said.
In Snohomish County, turnout reached 85.2% of the county’s 518,843 registered voters. That’s the highest percentage since hitting 87% in 2008. Snohomish County’s all-time mark is 88.7% in 1932 when the county had fewer than 100,000 voters.
The 441,921 ballots tallied is an all-time high and 85,000 more than counted in the 2016 presidential election. Women cast roughly 51% of the county’s vote.
Not only did a whole lot more people take part but nearly nine of 10 of them returned their ballot before Election Day.
“Voters were clearly motivated to participate in this election,” Fell said. “This meant we had significant results to report election night, giving candidates and voters a strong sense who will likely win many races.”
In this election a whopping 75% of ballots were returned via a drop box and 25% got mailed back.
A total of 4,885 ballots got tossed out. Of those, 4,085 were invalid because the signature on the ballot did not match the one on file for the registered voter. Only 287 got thrown out because they arrived late. In past presidential elections, nearly three times as many ballots have come in with late postmarks.
Voting increased in every age group, a reflection of greater engagement and an increasing county population statewide.
Nowhere was it more dramatic than among those 18 to 24 years old. Gen Zers cast 37,342 ballots, up from 25,904 in 2016. That is a 44% increase.
There was a 35% increase among those aged 25 to 34 and a 37% increase among 35-44-year-olds.
This was the first presidential election since the start of same-day registration, which allows a person to register and vote on Election Day. In all, 674 people did just that. And their average age was 33.
Combined, voters under the age of 45 accounted for roughly 42% of all ballots cast, up from 37% in 2016, according to state and local data.
Meanwhile, those 45 to 64 made up roughly 36% of the vote this year, down from 40% in 2016. Voters 65 and older cast 22% of the votes, nearly identical to their share four years ago.
The wave of interest in this election is likely to recede by next fall’s contests for city and county offices. Presidential elections are historically the high bar for voter participation.
“The challenge to younger voters is to stay engaged,” Fall said. “Historically we have seen disproportionate drop in participation in non-presidential elections, with many younger voters choosing to sit on the sidelines during these equally important elections.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.