Robust election night results expected due to early ballots

With significantly more ballots already in hand at elections offices around the state compared to four years ago, Washington state is expected to have more robust election results to report Tuesday night.

As of Monday night, nearly 73% of the state’s more than 4.8 million registered voters had already returned their ballot, compared to four years ago, when about 52% of voters had returned their ballots by the day before the election.

But voters still have time to return their ballots: by mail, with an Election Day postmark, or dropped at one of more than 500 ballot drop boxes or voting centers around the state by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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Elections officials with King County — the state’s most populous — have said that it’s unlikely that ballots returned on Monday or Tuesday will be reflected in the first batch of results released Tuesday night, and that results throughout the week will reflect whatever additional ballots arrive on those final days.

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But a spokeswoman said that their previous record for votes included in an Election Night post was right around 630,000 ballots, and that this year King County expects to be able to post tallies from about 1 million ballots Tuesday night.

The state’s 39 counties will do an initial post of results election night, and the largest counties will be updating daily throughout the week. Counties with a population of less than 75,000 are required to report at least every three days.

“With such high participation already this election, we know voters are eager to learn the results,” Lori Augino, elections director at the secretary of state’s office, said in a written statement. “Please be patient; results reporting is not instantaneous and there are processes in place to ensure the results are displayed accurately.”

Voters had a lengthy ballot to consider, with the presidential race between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden at the top of the ticket. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is seeking a third term against Republican challenger Loren Culp.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, who is retiring from Congress, and fellow Democratic Sen. Marko Liias are vying to succeed current Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, who started unpaid leave in September as he started training in California to be a Jesuit priest.

All 10 of the state’s U.S. House seats are on the ballot, but Heck’s 10th Congressional District seat is the only one without an incumbent seeking another two-year term. Democrats currently hold seven of the state’s congressional seats, and Republicans hold three.

In the 10th congressional district, former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and state Rep. Beth Doglio emerged from the state’s August top-two primary, which drew 19 candidates.

In addition to governor and lieutenant governor, voters will decide seven other statewide elected offices, including attorney general, auditor, insurance commissioner and lands commissioner, with all of the Democratic incumbents expected to fend off their Republican challengers. In the nonpartisan race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, incumbent Chris Reykdal — who received just 40% of the vote in the August primary — faces Maia Espinoza.

Only two statewide positions are held by Republicans — secretary of state and treasurer — and both have drawn Democratic challengers. Secretary of State Kim Wyman faces Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton and Treasurer Duane Davidson faces Democratic state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti.

Voters will also weigh in on referendum on a measure passed by the Legislature this year that requires public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education for all students. It marks the first time in the U.S. that voters will weigh in on sex ed.

All 98 state House seats and 26 of the Senate’s 49 seats are being decided by voters as well. Accounting for a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, Democrats hold a 28-21 majority in the Senate and a 57-41 edge in the House.