Ballots from those who waited until the last minute to vote poured into elections offices Wednesday, raising expectations for turnout in some of Washington's largest counties.
The question is, who benefits more from the surge, Sen. Patty Murray or Republican challenger Dino Rossi?
Even before Murray gained a little ground in Wednesday afternoon’s returns, Democrats exuded confidence that late voters would break their way.
“There’s no enthusiasm gap for Democrats in Washington state in this election,” party Chairman Dwight Pelz told reporters.
To win, Murray needs to hold on to her substantial election night lead in the state’s largest county while seeing high turnout there. On Wednesday, she was doing just that.
Her lead in King County stood at 63 percent. King County Elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom said the county has received ballots from more than 71 percent of voters. Of those 762,000 ballots, more than 300,000 arrived just in the past two days.
That blows away the county’s predictions that total turnout would be 68 percent.
King County has counted 425,000 of those ballots, including 50,000 Wednesday. Afternoon reports from other counties where Rossi leads, including Clark and Spokane, weren’t enough to offset Murray’s gains from King County.
Murray led statewide by more than 27,000 votes out of 1.6 million counted by Wednesday evening.
Pierce County Elections Manager Mike Rooney said more ballots are arriving in the mail than expected. The county originally predicted turnout of 57 percent. It’s too early to be sure, Rooney said, but he now sees 61 percent or 62 percent as more likely.
Some 55,000 ballots remain to be counted in Pierce County.
Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said she expects to adjust her original estimate of 64 percent turnout up to 66 percent or as high as 68 percent.
“We just had a lot of activity up here,” she said. “The drop-off locations were heavily used.”
Rossi campaign manager Pat Shortridge told reporters that Republicans usually do better in votes counted after Election Day. He echoed predictions from Republican strategists in other races that GOP candidates would improve in late balloting, as some did in the Aug. 17 primary election.
“There are still hundreds of thousands of ballots which need to be counted BEFORE a winner can be declared in this election,” Rossi spokeswoman Jennifer Morris wrote in a statement Wednesday evening. “The election remains too close to call.”
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 firstname.lastname@example.org