by Brian Zylstra | August 24th, 2012
This month’s Primary Election has been certified, with Secretary of State Sam Reed doing the honors late Friday afternoon.
More than 1.4 million ballots were tallied in the Primary, with voter participation a lighter-than-forecast 38.5 percent.
The county-by-county numbers are here, along with the breakout for various races.
The turnout was the weakest for a presidential-gubernatorial election-year Primary in recent years. The average has run about 43 percent, and Secretary Reed had forecast 46 percent this year, based on what seemed to be voter excitement about the 2012 races, from the hot White House race to wide-open races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor, good Supreme Court races, legislative and congressional contests, local issues and races, and growing interest in fall ballot issues, including same-sex marriage, marijuana, and charter schools.
Some analysts had blamed the earlier July-August primary period and the lack of funding for a printed Primary Voters’ Pamphlet. The primary was moved earlier by the Legislature to accommodate a new federal law requiring military and overseas ballots to be mailed out at least 45 days before the election. Previously, the primary was later in August and before that, in mid-September, but the Department of Justice and the Pentagon said that timeframe was no longer acceptable. Reed and auditors have previously supported moving the primary to June, when voters’ children are still in school and family vacations have not begun.
The printed voters’ guide for the Primary did not appear in the budgets proposed by the governor or either chamber of the Legislature, due to severe cutbacks. Reed said he supports passing a law making a printed Primary Voters’ Pamphlet mandatory, as the state Constitution currently requires for the General Election. The cost is $1 million-$1.2 million to send to every household.
Reed is optimistic that many more voters will take part in the fall General Election, perhaps in record numbers. The high mark for Washington voter turnout in a General Election was 85 percent, in 2008. Washington typically has among the best voter turnout percentages in the country, along with Oregon and Minnesota.
Other low turnout Primary years in Washington were 1980 (40 percent), 1988 (41.6), 2000 (40.8). The highest state Primary turnout in modern times was the 49.4 percent in 1972.