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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

November 10, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Washington midterm turnout lowest since disco era

Washington voter turnout in the midterms looks like it will set its lowest mark since the Bee Gees ruled the charts and Jimmy Carter sat in the White House.

Despite our state’s easy-peasy vote-by-mail setup, just 53 percent of registered voters bothered, according to Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office. That’s the latest estimate as of Monday afternoon.

If the figure holds, it will rank as the lowest midterm election turnout in Washington state since 1978, when just 52 percent voted. It’s far lower than the 62 percent predicted by Wyman’s office before the election.

Turnout was even lamer by the broader measure of participation by the voting-age population. About 39 percent of adults 18 and older voted in the midterm, based on state population estimates. About a quarter of adults in the state were not registered to vote as of 2012.

While some votes will continue to trickle in, it looks unlikely that turnout will get much higher, said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Wyman’s office.

The lack of a statewide U.S. Senate race or other big draw almost certainly was a factor in the low voter interest. The last midterm without a Senate race here was in 2002 – also a low turnout year at 56 percent. Even competing gun-law initiatives this year didn’t draw as much participation as some thought.

“I think there was a certain amount of the base of both parties that were energized, but the swing voters, the more casual voters didn’t get engaged,” Ammons said.

Washington is not alone in its apathy. PBS reports national voter participation was at its lowest level in 70 years, when measured by voting-age population.

Here are the midterm turnout figures for Washington in previous years (via Washington Secretary of State’s office):

Year *Estimated Voting Age Population Registered Percentage of Voting Age Population Registered Votes Cast Percent of Registered Voters Voting Percent of Voting Age Population Voting
1958 1,703,200 1,375,035 80.73 % 978,400 71.15 % 57.44 %
1962 1,813,500 1,446,593 79.77 % 971,706 67.17 % 53.58 %
1966 1,869,400 1,472,054 78.74 % 987,134 67.06 % 52.80 %
1970 2,078,000 1,562,916 75.21 % 1,123,000 71.85 % 54.04 %
1974 2,419,000 1,896,214 78.39 % 1,044,425 55.08 % 43.18 %
1978 2,651,000 1,960,900 73.97 % 1,028,854 52.47 % 38.81 %
1982 3,119,000 2,105,563 67.51 % 1,404,831 66.72 % 45.04 %
1986 3,307,000 2,230,354 67.44 % 1,358,160 60.89 % 41.07 %
1990 3,650,000 2,225,101 60.96 % 1,362,651 61.24 % 37.33 %
1994 4,000,000 2,896,519 72.41 % 1,733,471 59.85 % 43.34 %
1998 4,257,000 3,119,562 73.28 % 1,939,421 62.17 % 45.56 %
2002 4,519,000 3,209,648 71.03 % 1,808,720 56.35 % 40.02 %
2006 4,821,000 3,264,511 67.71 % 2,107,370 64.55 % 43.71 %
2010 5,149,729 3,601,268 69.93 % 2,565,589 71.24 % 49.82 %

Comments | More in 2014 elections, Politics Northwest | Topics: 2014 elections, turnout

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