King County voter turnout hits record 86.6% in general election

Previous record 85% in 2012

Voter turnout in King County hit a record 86.6% during the Nov. 3 general election.

King County Elections certified the county’s 2020 general election results, marking the official end of vote counting. Out of 1.4 million registered voters in the county, 86.6% turned out this election, breaking the last record of 85% in 2012, according to a Nov. 24 King County Elections news release.

This year over 909,000 (73.9%) voters returned their ballots to drop boxes, with more than 307,000 (24.98%) returning by mail and over 13,500 (1.1%) by fax. A little over 10,000 (0.85%) ballots were rejected for signature issues, and 707 (0.06%) were returned too late, making up just 0.91% of total ballots.

“This election is a testament to the effectiveness of our vote-by-mail system in carrying out the will of the people—even during a global pandemic,” said King County Elections Director Julie Wise in the news release. “None of this is possible without the hundreds of Elections’ staff working around the clock to process and count every single ballot, and of course, the King County voters who showed up and made their voices heard.”

King County Elections has worked to increase voter turnout by improving voter access and convenience in often overlooked and under-resourced communities. In 2016, King County had 10 drop boxes; today, the county has 73. More than 96% of voters live within 3 miles of a drop box location. In urban areas, such as Seattle, 75% of voters live within just 1 mile of a drop box.

This year voters turned out earlier than previous general elections, returning over 244,000 ballots within the first five days of the return period.

The results were certified during a Nov. 24 canvassing board meeting. Board members Wise, Kevin Wright of the prosecuting attorney’s office and Carolyn Busch, chief of staff for King County Council, presided over the election’s certification.

With just a 57-ballot difference, the race for the 5th Legislative District (which includes parts of Maple Valley, Renton, Issaquah and Snoqualmie) state Senate seat is up for a hand recount. Hand recounts are required when the vote total difference between two candidates is less than 150 votes and less than 0.25% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.

“The recount will take place at our headquarters in Renton and will be open to observers from both major political parties and campaigns,” Wise said. “We’ll begin the recount in December and expect it to take about two weeks to count the estimated 100,000 ballots.”

Featuring an 18-inch ballot, the general election was comprised of 64 races, with a total of 118 federal and state candidates, as well as 22 measures, with 16 local and six state. Included were state, county, city, school and special purpose district measures.