King County primed for biggest midterm voter turnout ever

Oct 30, 2018, 3:26 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2018, 11:23 am

Voter turnout in King County could end up breaking records, advisory votes...

(MyNorthwest Photo)

(MyNorthwest Photo)

With Election Day right around the corner, King County could end up with the highest voter turnout it’s ever had for a midterm.

RELATED: WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman talks voter expansion

Midterm elections don’t typically bring in many voters, but 2018 has proven itself to be a contentious year politically, both in-state and nationwide. That being so, some predictions claim voter turnout in King County could very well end up breaking records.

“We have about 350,000 ballots back here at our elections headquarters,” said Julie Wise, Director of Elections for King County. “This time during the 2016 presidential election, we had just 20,000 more than that.”

In 2016, Wise estimated that 82 percent of registered voters in King County turned out, and predicted that the 2018 midterm could come close to that number. King County’s elections office originally anticipated somewhere around a 60 percent voter turnout.

“I haven’t seen this level of interest and enthusiasm by our voters, and interest in participating in a midterm election — it definitely has much more of a presidential election buzz,” she told KIRO Radio.

King County took steps earlier in 2018 to encourage this level of turnout. After rolling out prepaid postage for mail-in ballots, the county saw its highest turnout numbers for primaries since 2004.

Almost a week after King County Council approved $381,000 to fund its prepaid ballot postage, the state government unveiled a measure to do the same for the rest of Washington. King County was the only county that wasn’t funded by the state’s prepaid postage measure.

All the same, many credit King County’s record turnouts in the primary to prepaid postage, and it doesn’t seem like a leap to ascribe the same credit for 2018’s midterm, at least to some degree.

Check the KIRO Radio Voters Guide

Factors like controversial ballot measures, political climate, and ease of access all figure in to increased voter numbers. Regardless of the reasoning behind King County’s own predicted turnout, it’s safe to say that it’s never been easier to vote in Washington state.

Correction: An earlier version of this story noted that Julie Wise predicted voter turnout could exceed presidential turnout. She did not make that prediction.

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