Jefferson voter turnout low for primary election

Quite a few voters didn’t weigh in on primary election ballots on the North Olympic Peninsula.

It was the lowest turnout in years in Jefferson County — likely due to the small number of races on the ballot.

“It’s not the lowest we’ve ever had, but it’s not a normal Jefferson County turnout,” said Sandi Eldridge, voter registration coordinator for Jefferson County.

“We’re usually second in the state, always competing for first.”

This election, Jefferson County’s 34.91 percent turnout — 8,512 ballots returned from the 24,384 who received them — is the fifth-highest county turnout in the state.

Clallam County’s voter turnout of 28.64 percent, with 13,312 ballots returned out of 46,483 provided to registered voters, is 16th in the state.

“This is a low turnout,” said Shoona Riggs, Clallam County auditor. “That is lower than it was in 2015. We had a 34 percent turnout [then].”

Jefferson County’s totals are compared to 37 percent in the 2015 primary, 41 percent in 2013 and 49 percent in 2011.

The turnout was the lowest since the primary election of 2009, when voter turnout was 33.21 percent, but still was higher than the statewide turnout of 23.48 percent, with 888,010 returning ballots out of the more than 3.7 million mailed.

“It’s hard to compare apples to apples in this case,” said Betty Johnson, elections coordinator for Jefferson County.

“It really depends on what is on the ballot,” she said.

This year, the majority of Jefferson County voters only had one race on their ballots: the primary for the Jefferson Healthcare hospital district commissioner.

“Some races are hotter than others,” Johnson said. “If the City Council had a primary, people may have come out for that, but really that’s just a guess.”

Odd-year primary races and general elections often see lower turnout than the even-year races, which feature more partisan candidates.

“There’s usually more interest in partisan races than nonpartisan,” Johnson said. “Seattle, with its mayoral race, will probably see a bigger turnout, but those candidates have gotten a lot of attention. So there are a lot of factors in voter turnout. It’s not just one thing.”

Jefferson County has historically boasted some of the largest voter turnouts in the state in other elections.

In the 2016 primary, the county had the state’s highest turnout, with just over 48 percent of voters participating.

In the 2016 presidential election, Jefferson County boasted the second-highest turnout of any county in the state with 86.21 percent of voters participating. That was beat only by the 88.35 percent turnout in San Juan County.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].

Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this report.

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