2020 Election

Did Trump Lose or Gain Support in Washington?

Scouring the state’s election results now that they're officially official.

By Benjamin Cassidy December 3, 2020

vote in front of Washington flag

Fax machine works, too, apparently.

On Tuesday, as Georgia election workers received death threats tied to the recount of the state’s vote, Washington secretary of state Kim Wyman put her stamp of approval on our state’s tally. The certification of Washington’s general election doesn’t come without its own contest; taking his cues from president Donald Trump, Republican candidate Loren Culp refuses to concede the gubernatorial race.

But Culp, like Trump, has produced no evidence of fraud. By this point we should all feel plenty comfortable trusting our state's results. These final counts offer some serious, and frivolous, insights into Washington political behavior during this drawn-out cycle.

King County set a record for voter turnout. We did it! King County bested its 85 percent mark from 2012, finishing with 86.6 percent of ballots returned (still a bit shy of our local election office’s 90 percent goal). Election officials didn’t count all of those votes, but not for nefarious reasons. Omissions of envelope signatures, or inconsistencies with them, led to about 10,000 rejections. And another 700 or so voters handed in their homework too late to make the count.

Statewide, we couldn’t quite crest 2008’s 84.6 percent turnout, with 84.1 percent of registered voters’ ballots returned.

Were carrier pigeons busy that day? According to King County Elections, officials collected 73.9 percent of votes from drop boxes and about a quarter of them by mail. The rest? They arrived via fax. Yes, fax. Somewhere (Redmond), a cloud engineer weeps.

Trump didn’t really gain support in King County or Washington. Technically, the president won a greater share of the county and state votes in 2020 (22.2 percent and 38.7 percent, respectively) than he did in 2016 (21.7 and 38.1). He also won more total votes locally and statewide than in 2016. But his opponent, Joe Biden, easily topped Hillary Clinton’s tallies from four years ago, broadening Democrats' margin of victory. Clinton carried the state by 16.2 points; Biden added three more to that margin. In King County, Biden won by about 2.5 more points.

How, then, did Trump’s slice of the vote widen, if only slightly? One clue: Name the Libertarian candidate in this election (I'll wait). While Gary Johnson received 5 percent of the statewide vote, and 4.1 percent of King County’s, in 2016, Jo Jorgensen commanded less than 2 percent of the state and county counts in 2020. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins couldn’t approach Jill Stein’s 2016 backing, either. The lack of popular alternatives to the two major parties this election cycle boosted Trump’s (and Biden’s) portion of the vote, not an uptick in MAGA believers.

Biden won a greater share of the count than Clinton in all 39 Washington counties. Again, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison (even in Washington) thanks to the weaker third-party choices this cycle, but Biden claimed a greater percentage of the vote than Clinton in every region of this divided state. Trump did better, percentage-wise, than four years ago in about half of the counties, but he expanded his 2016 margin of victory in just four counties: Cowlitz, Garfield, Pend Oreille, and Stevens.

Clallam County determines our fate. If Twilight didn’t put it on the map, this will: The only Washington county to flip in the Biden–Trump race has now voted for the winning presidential candidate 10 straight times, the longest streak in the country.

Culp’s protest is even more far-fetched than Trump’s. Which might seem impossible, but consider: As of this writing, Trump received about 279,000 fewer votes than Biden across Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, per The New York Times. Culp lost the governor’s race to incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee by more than 545,000 votes, or just over 13 percentage points. Beyond the lack of proof for Culp's claims, the math means it’s time to move on from this election, Loren. We all have something far more important, and real, to worry about.

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