Statewide: Mail-in turnout hits 34%

In Washington's first running of an August primary, voters were asked to choose a Democratic nominee for King County prosecuting attorney and a Republican favorite for state senator in Yakima Valley's 14th District.

The primary, drawing little attention in this off-year, was conducted mostly by mail. Turnout was projected at 34 percent, slightly better than usual for a primary without statewide contests to stir attention.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the ease and popularity of vote-by-mail, coupled with a number of intense local government races, were keeping the turnout from dipping further.

It's the first time the state used its new earlier primary - a full month earlier than the traditional post-Labor Day election. Lawmakers adopted the change to give election departments more turnaround time between primary and general elections, including time to handle any recounts.

The election was all about local races.

In King County, early results showed voters choosing Bill Sherman, a deputy prosecutor, over attorney Keith Scully - 62 percent to 38 percent - for the Democratic nod to take on the interim Republican prosecuting attorney, Dan Satterberg. Satterberg was appointed after veteran prosecutor Norm Maleng died this spring. Satterberg was unopposed for his nomination.

In the only legislative primary, appointed Sen. Jim Clements, R-Selah, trailed his GOP challenger, business leader Curtis King, 37 percent to 47 percent, in a race for the 14th District nomination that is considered tantamount to election.

In Spokane's five-way primary for mayor, the appointed incumbent, Dennis Hession, and City Councilwoman Mary Verner were leading the pack in early vote counts. The top two finishers will vie in a November runoff.

In Snohomish County's primary race for sheriff, state Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, was edging sheriff's Chief Tom Greene 38 percent to 35 percent in early returns. Sheriff's Lt. Rob Beidler was third at 27 percent in the race to replace Sheriff Rick Bart, stepping down because of a term limit.

Also in Snohomish County, in a county council contest that pitted two legislative colleagues,

Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Mukilteo, had 60 percent of the vote in early returns to 40 percent for Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett. They were vying for the nomination to take on Republican William Cooper in November.

Seattle and other cities had city council posts, school board and port commission slots open this year. Some counties were electing council members and other local leaders. Some areas had ballot propositions, including two six-year park levies in King County. Early ballot tallies showed the King County park levies passing.

For most voters, the election day was simply the deadline for posting ballots with the letter carrier or stopping by a dropoff site. About 90 percent of the participants were expected to vote by mail.

All but King, Pierce and Kittitas counties have switched to all-mail voting and King and Pierce are expected to switch next year.

Reed, touring poll sites in King County on Tuesday, saw very few in-person voters.

"The election board workers are very lonely here," he said in an interview. "Man, nobody's going to the polls anymore, despite all the expense of hiring workers and renting polling places."

Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, San Juan and Wahkiakum counties and parts of other counties didn't require a primary this year.

WA primary at-a-glance

By The Associated Press

EARLYBIRD VOTING: Washington staged its first August primary election on Tuesday, a full month earlier than the traditional post-Labor Day election. Lawmakers moved it from mid-September to give election departments more turnaround time between primary and general elections.

SCANTY TURNOUT: Turnout was predicted at 34 percent of 3.3 million registered voters, about average for off-year primaries with no statewide races.

STUCK IN THE MAIL: About 90 percent of the vote was expected via the mail or at dropoff sites. Late-arriving ballots could make it impossible to call close races for days.

BEST ACTION: Yakima Valley had a hot Republican state Senate primary, Spokane picked finalists for mayor, Snohomish County chose nominees for sheriff and other posts, Seattle and many cities and counties selected finalists for local council races, school boards and port commissions.