Statewide and regionally, primary election turnout is in decline

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Columbia Basin Herald graphic Note: 2018 figures are as of Thursday afternoon and are subject to change as more votes are tallied.

Following a steady statewide trend of declining primary election turnout, Tuesday’s turnout is shaping up to be the lowest in over a decade in many Central Washington counties.

Voter tallies are subject to fluctuations in the coming days as mail-in ballots are counted, but not by enough to account for the year-by-year decline in voter participation. Figures in this article are based on data released by the Washington Office of Secretary of State as of Thursday evening.

Tuesday’s turnout in Adams County, at about 23 percent, has more than halved since 2008, when turnout came in at just under 47 percent. Grant County has seen a similarly precipitous decline over the last decade, with only around 34 percent of voters turning in their ballots this year compared to over 50 percent in 2008.

Other counties in the Columbia Basin have also seen progressive, dramatic decreases in voter participation over the last decade. Lincoln County has seen a 12 point drop in voter participation, Yakima County and Kittitas County have seen a 22 and 26 point drop respectively.

In contests across the region, Republicans bore the brunt of lowered turnouts.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, received 18 percent fewer votes than he did in 2008, whereas challenger Matthew Sutherland earned 6 percent fewer votes than Schmick’s two challengers earned combined 10 years ago. Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, shares the 9th Legislative District with Schmick. Dye earned 15 percent fewer votes this year compared to the 2008 Republican incumbent, Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, during his race. Dye’s challenger, Democrat Jenn Goulet, received just 3 percent fewer votes than 2008’s Democratic challenger, Kenneth Caylor.

Republican incumbents in the 13th Legislative District fared no better. Republicans saw a 30 percent drop in voter participation in the race for the seat currently held by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, compared with 2010 (the seat’s incumbent ran unopposed in 2008). Compared to the more recent 2012 elections, when Manweller was first elected to office, the Republican legislator saw only a .1 percent decrease in participation, a figure slim enough that the legislator may actually gain ground by the time votes are finished being tallied.

Meanwhile, challenger Sylvia Hammond’s received almost three times as many votes as the 2010 challenger, Bull Moose candidate Anthony (El Tigrero) Novack, and about 19 more points than Democratic challenger Kaj Selmann received in 2012.

The Columbia Basin doesn’t have a monopoly on low turnout, however, with statewide participation declining almost 44 percent over the last decade. Barring a few temporary blips, turnout has been steadily declining with every election since at least 2008, both statewide and in counties across the region.

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