Early turnout in Island County not going the GOP's way

Island County voters have finally started to show up for this year's General Election.

Ballots for today's election were sent out Oct. 12, but through late last week, roughly a third of voters in the county had returned ballots.

Workers in the Island County election's office said late last week that ballots were being returned in fewer numbers than what had been seen in past elections, and a review of a database on returned ballots through Oct. 28 confirmed that view.

Through late Thursday, a total of 17,422 ballots had been returned. With approximately 48,000 active voters on Whidbey and Camano islands, that represents approximately 41 percent of the vote.

Historically, the vote trend in Island County follows a predictable pattern.

The county's election office sees an initial spike in ballot returns on the Monday following the first weekend after ballots are mailed, followed by a lull and then another smaller spike on the following Monday (Oct. 25 in this year's case), followed by the greatest number of ballots coming in on the Monday before Election Day.

An analysis of early ballot returns late last week shows the highest turnout in Penn Cove Precinct (65 percent) and Prairie Precinct (63 percent).

Penn Cove Precinct includes the neighborhoods around Scenic Heights Road to View Ridge Drive and Park Avenue, and the area has been a Republican stronghold in past elections.

Prairie Precinct includes the area directly west of the Navy's Outlying Field, from Highway 20 south to Crockett Lake. Though the precinct has historically leaned left, support for Democratic candidates was softer there than other Central and South Whidbey precincts for Democratic hopefuls in county elections in 2006, but swung more fully to the Democratic side in 2008.

Republicans did not appear to have an early advantage in turnout, according to the Record's analysis of the first ballot returns.

Other precincts with higher-than-the-county average late last week were Lagoon Point, Useless Bay 1, Possession Point and North Bluff — all areas that have been carried by a Democratic majority in elections dating back through 2006.

Generally, early turnout was higher in Central and South Whidbey precincts than on North Whidbey or the Oak Harbor area.

On Camano Island, turnout was stronger in north end precincts, which typically lean right, than in the island's southern precincts, which historically have voted Democratic.

Precincts with the lowest turnout in initial returns, below 25 percent, were Oak Harbor 112 (7 percent), Ault Precinct on North Whidbey (16 percent turnout), Oak Harbor 113 (20 percent), Oak Harbor 4 (21 percent) and Oak Harbor 8 (22 percent).

Turnout appeared to be falling back into the expected trend early yesterday, with more than 15,000 ballots submitted to the county over the weekend, according to the county elections office.

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