Voter turnout hit 40 percent on Tuesday, the Thurston County Auditor’s Office announced on its Twitter page yesterday.
Anticipating a hectic election cycle, largely due to complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials have repeatedly encouraged voters to return their completed ballots as early as possible. That message, Auditor Mary Hall said, seems to be paying off.
The turnout statistics, which Hall called “phenomenal,” were boosted largely by efforts to mail ballots to voters earlier than in previous elections. Roughly 187,000 ballots were mailed on Oct. 8, six days earlier than normal. Exactly four years ago, during the 2016 general election, voter turnout was 8.29 percent, said Hall.
Hall said the number of ballots dropped off each day has remained steady. There were 15,458 ballots returned the first day of pick-up, 9,301 the next and 13,214 the next, with 79 percent of ballots coming through the county’s 29 drop boxes rather than through the mail.
Hall encouraged anyone who has not registered to vote yet to do so as soon as possible. She is projecting a long line on Monday, Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. Since same-day voter registration became law in Washington state last year, people who aren’t registered will be able to register and vote all the way up until 8 p.m. Election Day.
“So if someone is going to wait until Election Day, I encourage they come with a full tank of gas,” said Hall.
In fact, a tow truck will be on site at the drive-through voter information center at South Puget Sound Community College. It will tow vehicles out of line if they run out of gas or break down in what’s expected to be a long line of waiting cars. The tow truck will be at the voter information center on Saturday, Oct. 31, Monday, Nov. 2 and Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The center was moved to the college from the courthouse to allow for social distancing.
But from now until Election Day, officials are still encouraging everyone register and vote as early as possible. Anyone who hasn’t received a ballot through the mail can get one by contacting the auditor’s office. The deadline to have a ballot mailed is Wednesday Oct. 28. After that, people will have to stop by the voting center at the college to get one.
Additionally, Hall said, her office is nearing its goal to have 200,000 registered voters in the county. Just before noon today, there were 198,944 people registered, with the expectation that there will be 199,000 by the end of the day.
You can contact the Thurston County Auditor’s Office at 360-786-5408 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.