Big election turnout likely, Island County officials say

Elections Office administrator Kirk Huffer hefts bags used to transport ballots from collection boxes.  - Justin Burnett / The Record
Elections Office administrator Kirk Huffer hefts bags used to transport ballots from collection boxes.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

Island County election officials expect a strong voter turnout for Tuesday’s general election.

Not only is it a presidential election year, but the biggest return days have yet to come and ballot boxes on Whidbey and Camano islands are already being found stuffed with the choices of eager voters.

As of Thursday afternoon, Island County Elections Office officials confirmed that nearly 25,000 voters had already turned in their ballots. That’s just under half of the 50,319 registered voters.

“We’re just a hair under 50 percent returned already,” said Michele Reagan, voter registration deputy for the Election’s Office.

It’s still too soon to know just what areas are yielding the greatest returns as individual precinct data aren’t tabulated until after the election but Reagan said all of the county’s drop boxes are being steadily used.

They are located at Ken’s Korner Red Apple Grocery in Clinton, Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland, at the Elections Office in Coupeville, in front of City Hall in Oak Harbor and at the Camano Island Annex on Camano Island.

This year’s general election ballot includes choices for president of the United States, a congressional seat, multiple state offices including the race for governor, several county positions and a handful of state and local measures.

On the federal side, incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen is being challenged by Republican Dan Matthews for the District 2 congressional seat.

In the state Legislature, incumbent Norma Smith, R-Clinton, is hoping to retain Position 1 against political newcomer Aaron Simpson, D-Langley, while Tom Riggs, D-Camano and Dave Hayes, R-Camano, are vying for Position 2.

Incumbent Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano, is also fighting to keep the District 10 Senate seat against challenger Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.

In Island County commissioner races, Republican Jeff Lauderdale is hoping to unseat Democrat Helen Price Johnson in District 1. Republican Jill Johnson is attempting to do the same to incumbent Democrat Angie Homola in District 2.

Along with several state initiatives and referendums, South Whidbey voters will decide on a South Whidbey Fire/EMS levy lift proposition. The request is to raise the levy rate from about 61 cents to 76 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to pay for existing operations.

Reagan said the largest daily returns occur the day before, the day of and the day after the election. Presidential years historically yield the greatest voter turnout. If the pattern holds true, participation should near 90 percent.

General elections in 2008, 2004 and 2000 all saw returns of about 89 percent. That stacks up to voter turnouts of 62 percent in 2011, 77 percent in 2010 and 60 percent in 2009.

With all that presidential fervor, it’s been busy around the elections office lately but things have gone pretty smoothly so far.

“We’re very pleased,” said Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider. “The work flow is going well, there have been no issues and people are participating.”

Crider praised the team of about 10 volunteer and temporary employees that come in every year to help during election time. Some have been coming in for decades, she said.

“Their experience enables us to process the ballots and do the work in rapid time,” Crider said.

Mail ballots must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, Nov. 6, to be counted. If using a drop-box, ballots must be inserted by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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