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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Streamlined King County Elections on Pace to Nearly Double Election Night Returns

Posted by on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 11:14 AM

This is the first presidential election King County will conduct entirely vote-by-mail, so it's hard to make apple-to-apple turnout and early voting comparisons. But if you're wondering about how much of the vote will be tallied in tonight's first and only ballot drop, it is fair to expect quite a bit more than years past.

For example, in 2010, King County Elections tallied only 254,261 ballots on election night out of the 766,477 that were ultimately cast in the US Senate race between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi. That's only 33 percent. But working from yesterday's ballot return statistics and assuming a turnout of about 84 percent, King County is on pace to report over 60 percent of the final vote at 8:15 p.m. tonight.

There are 1,181,700 registered voters in King County. As of the close of business yesterday, King County Elections reported 608,905 ballots verified. I'm waiting on confirmation on whether these are ballots that have simply been received and signature matched, or whether that number represents ballots that have actually been scanned. About 10,000 additional ballots have been received and set aside as "challenged" due to missing or mismatched signatures.

Either way, in past elections the number of ballots counted Tuesday night somewhat correlated with the number of ballots on hand Monday morning, and given the streamlined operations I witnessed yesterday at the county's new ballot processing facility in Renton, there is every reason to expect King County Elections to far exceed past performance. And tonight's ballot drop will be further padded by thousands of accessible voting machine results. So 608,905 strikes me as a conservative estimate of tonight's totals, especially considering that it doesn't include the processing that is being performed today.

At 81 percent turnout (which is what Secretary of State Sam Reed is projecting statewide), that would be 63.6 percent of total ballots cast. At 84 percent turnout (about what we saw in 2008), that would be 61.3 percent. At 87 percent turnout (which is what some observers are optimistically predicting given the pace of early returns), that would be 59.2 percent.

By any scenario, that's right in line with the 60 percent ballot drop Reed is projecting statewide, so we're sure to have a much better picture of winners and losers than we've had on election nights past.

But keep in mind that this also changes the expectations for tonight's ballot drop. For while we won't be able to account for any trend in late voters, Dems and progressive ballot measures can't count on the usual come from behind dynamic we've recently seen thanks to slow returns in King County. For the first time in years, we appear to be on pace to tally returns at a rate comparable to the state as a whole, and if that turns out to be true, tonights results should largely reflect the final results in all but the very closest statewide races.

UPDATE: Barbara Ramey at King County Elections emails me that "we expect to include at least 500,000 ballots in the count tonight." That would amount to over 50 percent of total ballots cast given an 84 percent turnout, short of my projection, but still far better than past years.


Comments (14) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
do you know if there are going to be any ballot updates before 8:15? I sure do love the nifty secretary of state election results app, but if there won't be any returns posted until 8:15pm it a bit underwhelming.
Posted by genevieve on November 6, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
Goldy 2
@1 "Polls" close at 8 p.m., counties report as soon thereafter as they can. Should be all over by 8:30.
Posted by Goldy on November 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 3
"...the very closest statewide races."

In other words: governor, R-74, and I-502.

I'd love to be wrong about 74 and 502.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on November 6, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
The Legislature needs to come up with a funding mechanism to provide counties with enough resources to count all ballots in a more timely manner, instead of reporting just once a night. There's a real public interest in providing more timely results, since dragging out the tabulation process just invites skepticism.

Even with a tax-averse Legislature and an unconstitutional 2/3 requirement to raise taxes, it's hard to see why they can't impose a tax/fee on elections-related ads/flyers/mailers that is 100% dedicated to funding for more processing machines and overtime pay for trained election workers.
Posted by SuperSteve on November 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Goldy 5
@4 60 percent is a pretty large statistical sample, more than enough to comfortably call most races. And those races that can't be called on election night generally will take a week or longer to determine, regardless of the resources you throw at it.
Posted by Goldy on November 6, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
@4 or we in King County need to stop subsidizing those inefficient tax-subsidized E WA slackers.

Technically, if it's mail-in postmarked today, the earliest "real" result would be Saturday's count.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 6, 2012 at 12:33 PM · Report this
@4, you answered your own question as to why they can't come up with a new tax/fee: 1053.
Posted by sarah70 on November 6, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 8
I was impressed with the county's handling of the ballot drop box in Ballard this morning. There were a bunch of employees (or volunteers?) taking ballots from the multitudes of cars driving by. And it seemed like they were sending boxes of ballots on their way to Renton pretty frequently.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 6, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
I dropped my ballot at one of the staffed drop boxes on Saturday, and it still isn't showing as being received. I AM FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS! (sorry, had to get that off my chest....) Has anyone heard how long these take to process? Are they not even being picked up until polls close tonight??
Posted by pony on November 6, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 10
@9--I sent my ballot in the day after I received it. It took just over a week before it showed up as validated on the KC website.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on November 6, 2012 at 2:35 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 11
@9 Their website says it takes 4 days to register in the system. I assume they don't even count Sat or Sun. Take a deep breath, get a drink, and enjoy the election. Your vote will show up eventually.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on November 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
very bad homo 12
@9 Mine took 4 days.
Posted by very bad homo on November 6, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Pony, I dropped mine off at one of the drop boxes Saturday afternoon and it isn't showing up yet, either. I called the Elections office earlier today and they said that if it was in a drop box, it's definitely been collected and that there are so many ballots being processed right now that it makes sense for it not to show up on the tracker yet. So... it should be okay. If it hasn't shown up on the tracker in another day or two, we can freak out and raise hell together.
Posted by RE1ND33RRRRR on November 6, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Occupy Seattle 14
Rock on King County Elections! Kinda makes Tea Party vote suppression org Washington Policy Center and Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed look like partisan idiots for complaining about ballots being postmarked by 8:00 pm election night, doesn't it?
Posted by Occupy Seattle on November 6, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this

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