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Early voting: How Whidbey is voting in the 2008 election

More than a third of Island County voters have already cast their ballots for next week’s election, according to a Record review of vote returns. But younger voters are hanging onto their ballots longer than older county residents.

Island County is a vote-by-mail county, and along with people in more than 30 states nationwide, voters across Whidbey and Camano islands have already been making their picks for president and other candidates in this year’s races.

Through Monday morning, the Island County elections department had received 16,628 ballots that could be counted. With an estimated 47,586 active voters in the county, that means 34.9 percent of voters have already returned their ballots.

“It is so much more conveneint to vote at home,” said Russell Jacobson, a Freeland-area voter in the Austin Precinct.

“You can sit down, read the literature, make a decision and mail it in.”

Jacobson, 89, said he and his wife, Martha, have been faithful voters since the 1940s.

“We started our participatory life of voting the day I got released from the Navy in World War II,” he said, recalling how he married the daughter of a captain of the Seattle Fire Department, and the couple visited his new father-in-law, Capt. Andrew Beattie, at his fire station on Dec. 9, 1945.

“He registered us for voting and gave us a little lecture on being patriotic and voting. We assured him we would never miss voting,” Jacobson said.

“That night, he passed away in the fire station.

“We have remembered that vow. To the best of my knowledge, we haven’t missed an opportunity to vote.”

Jacobson said he made his choice for president just prior to the Republicans’ national convention.

“We have very strong opinions that John McCain should be our next president,” he said. “I’m proud to vote for that guy. I’m just sorry the population of this country has forgotten the commitment that he has shown to this country.”

“The hot air that Obama has put out hasn’t swayed me a bit,” he added.

A Record analysis of early voter returns shows older voters are more likely to have voted early than younger voters.

Through Monday, voters younger than 60 were lagging behind the countywide average in turnout.

Voters 60 and older, however, were voting in larger blocks than the early average in turnout. So far, 44 percent of voters between the ages of 60 to 70 have voted. That’s 4,233 voters out of a pool of 9,616 active voters.

John Raabe, 65, a voter in the Sandy Point Precinct, said he kept his ballot around and finalized his vote over a number of days — choosing each candidate after his research was complete — before he sent it in.

“When I got all of the boxes filled, I sent it in,” he said.

He has not always voted early.

“I think I voted earlier than I ever have before,” Raabe said.

Raabe watched all the debates as well as the political conventions of both parties, and said he made his choice for president about six weeks ago or so.

He said he voted for Barack Obama, and the state of the country was a driving issue.

“It was the state of the country that was my prime mover,” he said. “I think we’re seeing the end of an era and we’re moving into a new one.”

Margo Lane of Greenbank said she didn’t like voting by mail before Island County made the switch to an all-mail vote in 2006.

“I’ve never been a fan of it before,” she said. “I just enjoy going to the polls and seeing my neighbors.”

Lane, 64, votes in the Lagoon Point Precinct. She said she cast her vote for president after learning more about the Democratic candidate for president.

“Obama; learning about his past history, what positions he’s held of responsibility.”

Though she voted for Obama, she said she crossed party lines in other races.

“I don’t vote straight ticket. I always vote for the person, not the party,” Lane said.

More than 51 percent of voters age 70 to 80 have already voted, or 2,270 of 5,274 active, registered voters in that age group.

More than 50 percent of the 80-to-90 age bracket has also voted already, or 1,295 voters out of 2,549 active registered voters.

Island County’s eldest voters are returning their ballots at the same rate as the 60 to 70 crowd; turnout so far is 44 percent (90 people have voted out of 190 in that age category).

The lowest turnout percentage so far is for voters

30 and younger; just 18 percent have mailed in their ballots.

For slightly older voters, the numbers are a little better. But only a quarter of the eligible voters in the age 30-to-40 bracket have voted.

Lisa Rao, 34, is a voter in the Oak Harbor 1 Precinct, the area just north of Pioneer Way that stretches from SE Midway Boulevard east to NE Regatta Drive.

This election was her first in Island County; she registered on Oct. 2. Residents had through Oct. 22 to register.

“I was already confident in who and what I wanted to vote for, and wanted to make sure I got it in on time,” she said.

“I didn’t need any more time. I didn’t need to read anything further,” she said.

“I felt that Senator Obama and Joe Biden, that they represent my values and my belief system much more so than McCain and Palin. I felt that they represent me. I felt that from the beginning.

“As the campaigns have unfolded I felt even more so, and felt progressively more uncomfortable with the McCain-Palin ticket.”

She said she favors Obama’s stance on social issues and foreign policy.

“That’s really important to me. I think we need leaders who are going to unite us as a country, and that are going to unite us with the rest of the world again.”

Rao said she has not seen anything yet to make her regret her choice.

“I felt that McCain was a really good candidate,” she added. “I felt less like that as the campaign continued. His selection of Sarah Palin, that was a big one.”

Through Monday across Whidbey and Camano islands, many of Island County’s 65 precincts are voting above the average turnout of 34.9 percent.

On South Whidbey, that’s the precincts of Clinton, Deer Lake, Freeland, Glendale, Sandy Point, Saratoga, Bush Point, Possession Point, Useless Bay and Langley 1 and 2.

On Central Whidbey, it’s the precincts of Greenbank, Lagoon Point, Prairie, Admiralty, San de Fuca and Coupeville 1 and 2.

In Oak Harbor, it’s the precincts of Swantown, West Beach and Oak Harbor 1 and 15.

On North Whidbey, it’s Cornet and Polnell.

And on Camano, it’s Countryclub, Triangle Cove, Utslady, Driftwood and Point Allen.

Three precincts have early turnout above 40 percent; Freeland (43 percent), Possession Point (44) and Langley 2 (44).

So far, the lowest turnout is in Ault Precinct (26 percent) near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Silver Lake Precinct (28) and Maxwelton (29).

Ballots were mailed on Oct. 14.

More women than men have voted. More than half of the women voters —

52 percent — have returned their ballots. Approximately 47 percent of the male vote has been returned.

The number of ballots being returned to the county and prepared for the count on Election Day hit a high of 3,359 ballots on Oct. 20.

Since then, the number of ballots being returned has fallen off slightly, to roughly 2,000 ballots a day.

In recent elections, an analysis of ballot returns by The Record has shown an initial spike of returned ballots, followed by smaller waves of returns until the biggest batch of votes comes in on Election Day.

Nationwide, about a third of voters are expected to cast ballots on Election Day.

Island County Deputy Auditor Michele Reagan, however, said there has not been a noticeable falloff from what has historically been a big early bump of ballot returns.

“We haven’t had that lull. No lull,” she said.

Turnout this year may break the previous record.

“We’re expecting, at the very least, the same number (89.4 percent). But this year, probably higher,” she said.

There will be more voters eligible for this election than the Aug. 19 primary.

According to a review of voter registration records, every precinct in Island County has seen an increase in the number of eligible voters.

There have been 3,029 new voters registered since the primary on Aug. 19. A total of 1,257 voters have registered since Oct. 1.

Most new voter registrations — a total of 1,087 — have been made in Oak Harbor-area precincts.

South Whidbey precincts are second in the number of new registrations since the primary; 626.

On Camano Island, 474 people have registered to vote since the primary. On North Whidbey, new voter registrations during the same period have totaled 342, while in Central Whidbey precincts, the county has received 357 new registrations to vote.

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