OLYMPIA – Secretary of State Sam Reed on Friday forecast a 38 percent voter turnout for the 2010 mid-term Washington state primary now underway.
Ballots have gone out to nearly all of the 3.59 million registered voters. They may be filled out and returned right away or voters can hold onto them until closer to the Aug. 17 postmark deadline.
Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, noted that the average of the last seven even-year non-presidential year primaries is 34 percent. The turnout four years ago, the last comparable year, was 38 percent, and Reed said the state should at least match that this year.
“We are seeing a surge of interest in politics and campaigns at both the national and state level, with people again talking about a `change’ election,” Reed said. “We have a great U.S. Senate race, some unusually heated legislative contests all around the state, an open 3rd Congressional District, some Supreme Court races that could be essentially decided in the primary, and much more.
“While a minority of our voters will be deciding our November finalists -- and I really secretly hope that we’ll get into the 40s -- I’ll predict a reasonably strong 38 percent and just hope it’s even better.”
State Elections Director Nick Handy said the forecast is “at the top of the historic range” for mid-term elections, but can be achieved.
“There a many upward factors,” Handy said. “A number of voters are being energized by the Tea Party movement, or reaction to it. There is general unrest about government and we hear national reports of anti-incumbency.
“The Senate race is certainly a big draw, particularly now that it is on the national watchlists, and there are many great races all around the state.
“Two other things that should help turnout: First, we will again be using the Top 2 Primary, which is quite popular with voters and allows everyone to participate and vote for their favorite in every single race, without regard to a party label.
“And secondly, nearly all of us will be voting by mail, and that has tended to improve turnout, since it is so convenient and voters will have a period of several weeks to consider their choices, study up on the issues and cast their ballots.”
Populous King County still had poll-site voting back in the last comparable mid-term primary, 2006. Today, every county except for Pierce has switched entirely to vote-by-mail, and most Pierce voters have signed up for mail voting.
Reed and Handy noted that the primary, recently adopted by California voters, will not produce nominees for the two major parties, but rather voters will winnow the field for each office to two finalists. Typically, that will be a prefers-Democratic Party and a prefers-Republican, but in some districts, voters may be two finalists with the same party preference. Minor party candidates are also taking part in the Top 2 process and in some cases, could advance.
For a full explanation of the system, you can visit http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/Top2PrimaryFAQ.aspx
Voters can find MyVote, the online voters’ guide, a link to TVW’s video voters’ guide by visiting www.vote.wa.gov