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Mail-in ballots will dominate Tuesday election
Voting is not like it used to be.
After only a few years of offering them, the Island County Auditor's Office is now sending the majority of county voters mail-in ballots.
For the Nov. 5 election, said Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, 22,000 of Island County's 40,000 voters received mail-in ballots. Her office already has about 7,400 of them back, ready to be counted on election night.
So when actual, election-day polling places open up Tuesday, there will not be nearly the number of voters punching ballot cards as in the past. That, Sinclair said, is fine by her, since voter turnout with mail-in ballots has proven to be far higher than at the polls. In recent elections, 80 to 85 percent of those receiving mail-in ballots sent them back to be counted.
As the number of mail-in voters grow, so do their precincts. For this election season, the county will have a dozen mail-only precincts, five of which are on South Whidbey. Voters in those precincts could have voted as early as three weeks ago, when the first ballots began showing up in mail boxes.
At the same time, election-day polling places are being consolidated. Turnouts at some are so low, it is not efficient to keep them open, Sinclair said. One precinct near Oak Harbor, she said, attracted only two people -- a husband and wife -- in the last election.
Still, even as these precincts shrink, Sinclair said she does not see a day when election-day polling places disappear.
"I'd like everybody to have a choice," she said.
For Tuesday's election, polls all over the county will open at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. Sinclair said her office will be posting early results on its Web site by 9 p.m. on election day. The address for the Web site is www.islandcounty.net/auditor.
For those who prefer to get their election results live and in person, the auditor's office will be open election night as the ballots are counted.