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Voter turnout in Washington reaches 84.1%, just below all-time record

Unopened ballots await processing at the King County Elections headquarters on Nov. 3, 2020 in Renton, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

While there were a record number of voters participating in the 2020 general election this month in Washington, it turns out the state did not set a record for overall turnout percentage.

We saw the highest number of state residents voting with 84.8% of the nearly 4.9 million voters returning a ballot for the Nov. 3 election. The final rate Tuesday reached 84.1% after county canvassing boards reviewed ballots that had been challenged over issues like signatures or postmarks.

As for the all-time record, that sits at 84.6%, set in the 2008 presidential election. More than 4.1 million voters cast a ballot this year, compared to the 3 million cast in 2008.

King County voters did set a record, however, coming in at close to 87% of registered voters, breaking the last record of 85% in 2012. The majority of King County voters returned their ballots to ballot drop boxes (73.9%), with nearly 25% returning by mail, and 1.1% by fax. Less than 1% of ballots were rejected for signature issues, and only 0.06% were returned too late. Final results from King County Elections are posted here.

A ballot’s journey at King County Elections headquarters

Tuesday, Nov. 24, was the last day for counties to certify their results. Secretary of State Kim Wyman says she plans to certify the election on Dec. 1, two days before the deadline.

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

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.

Check Election Results

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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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