Snohomish County marks lowest primary election turnout in state; Jefferson breaks 50 percent while Clallam reports 37 percent

The Associated Press

EVERETT — Snohomish County had the dubious distinction of recording the lowest voter turnout in the state during the primary election while Jefferson County was among only three to surpass the 50 percent turnout mark.

The best turnout was in Ferry County, closely followed by Garfield County, election officials said.

Clallam County turnout was 37 percent, according to the county auditor’s website.

Voter turnout was 25.6 percent in Snohomish County — the county’s poorest showing for a non-presidential midterm primary election in two decades, The Daily Herald reported.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel, noting it felt like she threw a party and nobody showed up.

“This is our opportunity to have impact on the government that is in place, and so few people take that opportunity to heart and participate,” she said. “It’s discouraging.”

Statewide, with all 39 counties combined, turnout fell just below 31.2 percent.

The state’s three most populous counties — King, Pierce and Snohomish — finished in the bottom five, based on the percentage of voter participation.

Pierce County had the second-lowest with 27.4 percent turnout, and King was fifth at 29.3 percent.

In between were Clark at 28.6 percent and Thurston at 29 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, the rural counties of Ferry (54.2 percent), Garfield (54 percent) and Jefferson (50.6 percent) were the only three to break the 50 percent barrier.

Primary turnout did not please the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

“I was certain we would be higher,” she said.

But, she noted, turnout has been down in primaries across the country.

Washington turnout was actually the second-highest of any state.

“The more I do this, the more I have come to conclude that it comes down to what’s on the ballot,” Wyman said.

“If the voters think the race is important and they can make the difference, they’ll be moved to act.

“For most voters, nothing lit a fire under them” on Aug. 5.

Unlike other states, Washington’s ballot did not contain a race for a U.S. Senate seat or major statewide office or contentious initiative.

Those are what typically attract lots of campaign spending and drives up voter participation.

Voters mostly were considering local ballot measures and legislative contests.

A lack of exciting races is only part of the reason, Weikel said.

“It goes deeper. Not only aren’t people interested in voting, people aren’t interested in running for government jobs,” she said.

Last modified: August 25. 2014 6:22PM
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