Grant County early voting lags behind neighboring counties

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While many counties across the state are seeing record-setting early voting in response to heated Congressional elections both to the east and west, Grant County is so far not seeing the same bump in voter participation.

Though there has been less than a one percent increase in voter participation for the first eight days of early voting compared to 2014 according to data from the county elections office, population in the county has increased at almost triple the rate, meaning a smaller proportion of residents are engaging with this year’s election.

The decline is even more pronounced when compared with the 2010 elections, which saw over 30 percent early voter participation than so far this year.

Officials with the Election Division of the Grant County Auditor’s office could only point to the 2010 senate race between Dino Rossi and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, as possibly having spurred higher voter participation in that election. Rossi did far better in that race than Republicans typically do in Washington Senate elections, whereas this year’s Senate race between incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Susan Hutchison is not expected to be as competitive.

Elections for competitive U.S. House seats in Washington’s 5th and 8th Congressional Districts appear to be pulling voters to the polls in counties east and west of Grant County. In the 5th Congressional District, which stretches from neighboring Kittitas County to portions of King County, a competitive election between Dino Rossi and Kim Schrier has become one of the most closely-watched races in the state and has attracted tens of millions of out-of-state spending.

In the 8th Congressional District, which stretches from Ferry and neighboring Lincoln County to Asotin County, incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is facing an unexpectedly tight race against Lisa Brown. Voter turnout in both districts is reaching record highs according to filings with the Washington Office of the Secretary of State.

Meanwhile in Grant County, incumbent Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, is widely expected by pollsters to win his race against Democratic challenger Christine Brown.

Still, the county is not without competitive or contested elections. With a full slate of county-wide races for county commissioner, auditor and treasurer, seats up for grabs on the Public Utility District Commission and competition for state representative races in both the 12th and 13th districts, Grant County voters have plenty to vote for. The only question left is whether Grant County voters will be as fired up about their local races as neighboring counties are about competitive federal elections.

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