This Washington

Primary Turnout: A Modern Record

By Josh Feit August 24, 2010

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed had predicted a 38 percent turnout for this year's primary. As of today, with still about 20,000 votes to count, we're at 40.01 percent turnout—that's 1.4 million votes. (There are 3.6 million registered voters in the state.) The turnout is a modern-day record for this type of non-presidential primary. (In the 2008 primary, the first time the state did the current top-two format, turnout was 42.6 percent.)

Do these numbers spell big turnout in the general? Reed has not made a prediction. But in 2006, the last time there was an even-year, non-presidential primary, when primary turnout was 38.7 percent, November turnout was 64.55 percent.

Certainly, other items on the ballot have an impact on turnout in the general. (In 2006, there was a measure to repeal the estate tax; a measure to roll back land use regulations; and a measure mandating renewable energy use. The liberal vote carried the day on those measures—the estate tax repeal failed, the land use regs roll back failed, and the renewable energy initiative passed. Also, Sen. Maria Cantwell clobbered her GOP challenger Mike McGavick, 57 to 40.)

There are six initiatives on the ballot this year. And in an election that already appears to be a bad season for Democrats, the majority of the measures seem like Get-Out-the-Vote engines for conservatives, such as Eyman's measure to reinstate the two-thirds rule for tax increases and the repeal of this year's soda, candy, and bottled water taxes.

Progressives are putting up a high-earners income tax.

The all-time record for voter turnout was the 2008 general election—84.61 percent with over 3 million votes cast—starring Obama v. McCain and the Gregoire v. Rossi rematch.
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