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Washington state's vote by mail primary garners only 26 percent turnout for primary

Turnout statewide was under 22 as of Wednesday morning following the primary Tuesday night which means less than one in four registered voters actually voted.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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Voter turnout in Washington state’s vote by mail primary is once again extremely low, causing some political analysts to discuss if the election day should be moved.

Turnout statewide was under 22 as of Wednesday morning following the primary Tuesday night which means less than one in four registered voters actually voted.

By Thursday evening, according to the Ballot Return Statistics page, out of 4,803,590 registered voters, 1,275,319 ballots, or 26.55 percent, had been returned. Approximately 7.71 million people live in the state.

These low numbers come despite more new voters receiving ballots this year, including, for the first time, 17-year-olds who can vote in the primary if they will be 18-by the time of the general election. Less than 15 percent had turned in their ballots by Wednesday morning’s totals.

According to the WA Secretary of State's website, the largest group of voters to turn out by age are those 65 and older with 53.7 percent having returned their ballots by Wednesday morning’s tally. This was the only group to top 50 percent turnout in the primary.

45 percent of voters dropped their ballot in a drop box, while 54 percent mailed them in.

According to KOMO News political analyst Ron Dotzauer with Strategies 360, "Voters are just not focused in the middle of August in Washington state. We either need to go back to a September date or we need to look at an earlier date when voters, children are in school and are focusing on elections."

"The primary tends to favor more Republican voters than Democratic voters," Dotzauer said. "That doesn't seem to be the case."

Others speculated that some had voter apathy based on allegations of problems with the vote by mail system. Washington residents have been largely voting by mail since 2011.

In Washington state, the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse lead in their respective Third and Fourth Congressional districts. Both found themselves with multiple challengers after voting for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment in 2021.

As of Thursday, Beutler was in second place behind Democratic challenger Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Joe Kent, a Trump-endorsed Republican, was in third place. Newhouse led in his race ahead of Democrat Doug White. Trump-endorsed Loren Culp took third place.

In Washington's Eighth Congressional District, Republican candidate Matt Larkin leads the field of GOP candidates. The winner will take on Democratic representative Kim Schrier, with hopes of flipping Washington's Eighth Congressional District, a district that leans Republican until Schrier won her seat in 2018, and again in 2020.

Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley will take on longtime Democrat incumbent Patty Murray in November's general election, following Tuesday's primary.

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