Island County yields largest presidential primary turnout in state

There’s keen interest in the May 24 presidential primary election among Island County voters, even though the results are unlikely to affect the race.

The Secretary of State reported Monday that 28.8 percent of Island County’s 52,287 registered voters have turned in their mail-in ballots. That’s the highest percent of any county in the state. Adams County had the lowest with just 15.1 percent.

Michele Reagan, the elections supervisor in the county Auditor’s Office, said the number increased to 31 percent by Tuesday morning.

The Republican Party will use the results of the primary vote to allocate all of the state’s convention delegates. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and the only candidate left in the race on the Republican side, so the results are unlikely to change anything.

Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson are on the ballot because they didn’t suspend their candidacy until after the ballots were printed. The Democratic Party isn’t using the results to allocate delegates, but is relying solely on the March 26 precinct caucus.

Nevertheless, Island County voters want their voices to be heard, according to Sandi Peterson, chairman of the Island County Republican Party.

“There is a lot of interest on both side of the aisle,” she said. “People who have never really been involved before are coming out to support a candidate.”

She predicts that Cruz will do well among Island County Republican voters. She said his campaign did a “fabulous job” with the ground game in Island County. She also said the primary may end up making a difference at the convention.

Art Huffine, chairman of the Island County Democratic Party, agreed that there’s a lot of interest in the presidential election on the island. He noted that the caucus was 30 percent larger than in 2008 and was a record.

“It also reflects the fact that a lot of people want to participate and could not or did not attend the precinct caucuses,” he said.

In addition, Reagan pointed out that Island County is consistently near the top when it comes to participation in elections.

“The answer is in a simple phrase: Island County votes,” she said.

She also said that her office got ballots out early, especially with concerns about mail delivery. The regular ballots have to be sent out no later than 18 days before the election under state law; the county sent them out 27 days early.

Reagan said a few hundred voters didn’t select a political party on their ballot, which means they can’t be counted. The office sent out letters to the voters to give them a change to fix the problem.

“The 31 percent will definitely go up,” she said. “It’s just a matter of how much.”