Washington officials expect just 40% voter turnout in 2021

Nov 3, 2021, 7:42 AM | Updated: 7:43 am
ballot, napkin vote, approval voting...
Voting pins and stickers lie next to a ballot box at the King County Elections processing center in Renton, Washington. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

So far in the 2021 general election, overall voter turnout in Washington state is low — and it may not get much higher.

State officials have said they expect just about 40% of registered voters to turn in a ballot in November’s election.

See all local election results

In Snohomish County, about 100,000 ballots have been counted, which is about 20% of all registered voters. That number is slightly higher in King County at 22%, which amounts to about 311,000 ballots. But Pierce County is among the lowest counties with just 94,000 ballots counted as of Tuesday night, which is just 17% of all registered voters.

Processing the election results in Washington can take days, in part due to the fact that the state accepts ballots at drop boxes up until 8 p.m. on Election Day, and by mail as long as it’s postmarked on or before Election Day.

“We really need to view results as a snapshot of where things stand, but these may not be the final results,” said KIRO Radio’s Charlie Harger on Tuesday.

Moderate Seattle candidates carry the night, progressives face steep climb to close gap

“It’s so tempting to call a race, it’s so tempting to call an election, and I think that it behooves everybody just to remember that there’s the initial dump, there’s a tremendous amount of votes that come in, numbers start flying all over the place, and then we might have to wait for a couple of days,” KIRO Nights’ Jack Stine replied.

Even though turnout is typically lower, off-presidential year elections still matter.

“The reason they’re important are because this is what affects our every day lives,” Harger said, sharing his opinion. “We can watch the presidential race, we can watch what’s going on in Congress, and that’s a big thing, it’s important. Bu these are the people who decide on how much you’re going to pay for your sewer bill, when roads are going to be paved, all those important things that affect your day-to-day life — how much you’re paying on taxes for your house — that’s why these races matter. And that why, a lot of times, it’s really a sad thing to see people not cast their votes.”

Local races have direct impact on daily lives for Washington voters

There are still a lot of people who have not (and will not) turn in a ballot this election, yet Washington state had very high voter turnout in 2020’s presidential election at about 82%.

With Seattle mayor, Seattle city attorney, a few council seats open, as well as various mayoral races across the state and other local positions on the ballot, Stine says 40% seems, to him, “disappointing.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Washington officials expect just 40% voter turnout in 2021