60% of ballots received: Washington voter turnout surpassing election projections

It's not even Election Day, but Washington state voters want their voices heard and votes counted.

It's voter engagement unlike anything seen in recent memory. On Thursday, Washington's Secretary of State's office announced that 60.8% of ballots have been received. That equates to 2,959,481 ballots cast so far. And that's with five days before Election Day.

In comparison, in 2016, also with five days before the election, 36.8% of ballots (1.5 million) were turned in.

"We've got an engaged electorate that are energized and really wanting to participate," said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. "I think that if we ever have statewide, a 90% voter turnout, it's 2020."

Beyond just overall voter turnout will be the analysis of how certain groups voted.


According to University of Washington political science professor James Long, that will continue to be a key factor in who wins, and what measures get passed.

"So for instance, one of the things that's being talked about is, the increase of voter turnout in younger voters," said Long. 

If more younger voters cast ballots, that could benefit Joe Biden, said Long. It will be interesting to see how older voters vote, he added. Traditionally, older voters have leaned toward Republican candidates, Long said. 

"I think they're seeing it as whether you want to re-hire President Trump," said Long.

There is another swing demographic to keep an eye on.

"White women living in the suburbs is sort of this swing demographic that maybe voted for Barack Obama in '08, and then Mitt Romney. A lot of them voted for Hillary (Clinton), but also a lot of them voted for Trump," he said.

Months before the election, experts were concerned that voter turnout could be less than expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we've seen in Washington and other states, that's not the case.

"That all of the crisis that all of the country faces right now are exactly what is turning voters to come out. And the long lines are a function of people taking this election seriously," said Long.

Even counties are seeing voter engagement that's surpassing expectations. 

"We had been projecting 550,000 registered voters. We're at 564,000 and counting. We'll probably be at more than 565,000 registered voters," said Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor on Wednesday.

Pierce County voter turnout is more than double than during the 2016 Presidential Election, said Anderson. They expect turnout to surpass the 2008 record. Accroding to Anderson, turning in a ballot for some voters she's noticed, is the best thing to happen in 2020.

"What we're seeing are happy voters. Whether they're coming to register, or dropping off a ballot at one of our drop boxes. People are excited and happy to be doing their part," she said. 

Expect more of a ballot rush through the weekend.

"Normally we see about half of the ballots come in the Friday of election week," said Wyman.