Good news for Approve R-74, Jay Inslee and marijuana reform
by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
King County election officials are expecting a record turnout in the election ending Tuesday, November 6, which augurs well for marriage equality and the Democratic candidate for governor, Jay Inslee.
According to King County Elections Chief Communications Officer Kim van Ekstrom, the county is predicting 87% voter participation.
'That's a record as far as I know,' van Ekstrom said. 'Our electronic records go back to 2000, and it's certainly the highest since then.'
King County's turnout in 2008, the previous presidential election year, was 84%. In 2009, the year the state passed Referendum 71 approving domestic partnerships, the turnout was only 53%.
Van Ekstrom said 420,000 ballots had been received as of October 31, out of some 1.1 million registered King County voters.
Dave Ammons, spokesperson for the Washington Secretary of State's office, confirmed that King County is on track for an 87% turnout, 'and Snohomish County is reporting 85%.'
While Ammons characterized statewide turnout as 'vigorous,' he added that King and Snohomish counties are way ahead of expectations for the rest of the state.
'We're expecting about 81%, a little better than average,' Ammons told SGN. 'Since we started keeping records of this in 1952, the average has been 79%. Our record was 85% in 2008, so it won't quite measure up to that.'
King County voters represent about 30% of the 3.9 million registered voters statewide.
R-74 A MOTIVATOR
Van Ekstrom and Ammons agreed that voter interest in ballot measures like Referendum 74, and continuing support for President Obama, were driving voter turnout.
The Approve R-74 campaign for marriage equality would certainly be one of the beneficiaries of a high turnout in Gay-friendly King County. In 2009's off-year election, R-71 passed largely on the strength of lopsided Approve votes in King and Snohomish counties. Turnout that year in King County was only 53%, but it still helped drive a victory for R-71.
In an October 31 New York Times story, NOM mastermind Frank Schubert, who is managing all four anti-equality ballot campaigns nationwide, all but conceded defeat in Washington and Maine.
Maine 'would become one more state in a liberal corner of the country to permit same-sex marriage,' Schubert told the Times. Washington is also a liberal state, Schubert said, and 'it would be unfortunate if we lose there, but not very surprising,' given the disparity in fundraising between his side and the Approve R-74 forces.
A BOOST FOR INSLEE
Another beneficiary of a high King County turnout would be Inslee, who has polled well in King and Snohomish counties but has lagged behind his Republican challenger in other parts of the state.
Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith told SGN she is 'absolutely' happy with the high turnout numbers from Inslee's base areas.
'Higher voter turnout typically benefits Democratic candidates,' she noted.
'It's a very important election,' Smith added, 'and we're putting a lot into our turnout efforts. We have phone banks overflowing with volunteers, canvassers going out every evening. It's been inspiring.'
Washington United for Marriage also reported extraordinary GOTV (get-out-the-vote) efforts, with some 82,000 calls to registered voters last weekend urging a vote to Approve R-74. The group said its volunteers would log some 1,500 person-hours canvassing voters in the weekend before Election Day.
Smith said she thinks Approve R-74 and Inslee's campaign will help each other at the polls.
'Jay has been very vocal supporter [of Approve R-74],' Smith said. 'He's very, very vocal why he'll be supporting it. I think people will want to vote for the only candidate for governor who supports marriage equality.'
Election officials said that in spite of the large number of ballots coming in, there have been remarkably few problems.
'We've been preparing since last year,' van Ekstrom said, 'knowing we'd have a big turnout, and all systems are working well.'
Ammons said that statewide 'there have been just some minor problems,' including sporadic efforts at voter suppression.
DON'T BE FOOLED
'Some people reported getting phone calls telling them not to vote with replacement ballots if they didn't get their ballot in the mail,' Ammons told SGN.
In fact, just the opposite is true. If registered voters have not received their ballots in the mail, they can and should ask for replacement ballots and use them to vote.
Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, November 6 to be counted. For voters who run out of time or who prefer to deliver their ballots in person, there are numerous drop boxes in King County. To find the box nearest you, visit www.kingcounty.gov/elections/voting/ballotdropboxes.aspx.
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