Don’t delay getting ballots in

HEAVY TURNOUT: Election officials say there may be congestion at drop-off sites; many already mailed in ballots

bshannon@theolympian.comNovember 6, 2012 

About half of Washington 3.9 million registered voters have already returned ballots for today’s general election, and state elections staffers are urging everyone else to get ballots in early.

“Don’t wait to the last minute. It’s going to be crowded. There may be parking problems” at some drop-off sites, Katie Blinn, state elections co-director, said Monday.

Blinn said the rate of early voting through Monday makes it more likely that the turnout will hit the 81 percent predicted by Secretary of State Sam Reed after a dismal August primary when fewer than 39 percent voted. But that is still shy of the record 84.6 percent set in 2008.

In addition to voting for president, Washington voters are picking a new governor and deciding the fate of initiatives that could legalize marijuana possession and allow same-sex marriages, two measures watched nationally. Other measures authorize charter schools and renew a two-thirds vote rule for tax increases at the Legislature.

But who wins the state’s highly contested governor’s race – former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee or Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna – might not be known for a few days.

Who controls the state Senate and how big of a majority Democrats have in the state House also are at stake today, and other hot races include secretary of state and auditor. In the secretary of state race, both Democrat Kathleen Drew and Republican Kim Wyman are from Thurston County.

State Republicans and Democrats have been pushing hard to get out the vote across the state, and Republicans in King County were even going door to door to pick up ballots – a move that Secretary of State Reed and King County elections officials were discouraging.

Blinn said McKenna’s campaign for governor informed Lewis County elections staff they also were picking up ballots from voters. She said voters should personally put their ballots into official drop boxes or into the mail before the 8 p.m. deadline – unless they are giving a ballot to someone they trust.

In Thurston County, elections manager Steve Homan said 66,057 ballots were in hand as of Friday and another 10,000 came in the mail Monday. Thousands more were picked up from 25 drop boxes around the county.

Thurston elections workers plan to add an extra or third trip to empty out drop-boxes during the day today – with a fourth run taking place after polls close at 8 p.m., Homan said. Turnout in Thurston County may exceed the state average, and county Auditor Wyman has predicted it at 87 percent, Homan said.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com theolympian.com/politicsblog @BradShannon2

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