Major races not equating to major turnout

The Walla Walla County auditor says she expects turnout to reach 30 percent in the primary that closes today.

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WALLA WALLA - A higher-than-typical number of contested races on the primary ballot isn't necessarily bringing out more voters than usual.

Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin said the Elections Office received 606 ballots today for a total so far of 4,971 - or about 26.9 percent of registered voters.

She said the number is an improvement for an "odd-year primary" over the last few years.

"There's been a lot of times we haven't even had a primary during the odd year because not enough people filed" to run for office, she said.

Based on the number of telephone calls coming into the Elections Office today, she expects a swell of ballots tomorrow. Martin predicts the turnout could reach 30 percent.

Today is the last day to vote in the primary election. Ballots postmarked today will still count. Ballots deposited at drop boxes, including at the Walla Walla Fire Department's Wilbur Avenue station and the College Place Fire Department, do not need a stamp.

Three major races for public office are on the ballot, including two for Walla Walla City Council and one for the Port of Walla Walla Commission.

Only voters who live within the district that is represented by the Port seat get to vote in the primary. In this case that's residents who live in the eastern third of the city of Walla Walla, Dixie, Waitsburg and Prescott. All voters who live in the city of Walla Walla get to vote in the primary for the Council positions.

Martin said the county typically receives its first crush of returned ballots right after they've been mailed out to voters. From there the ballots trickle in slowly until the cutoff, she said. The day after the election often includes a crush of ballots. By then, the direction of the votes is usually already established.

The direction of tight races can be changed by the votes that come in the last-minute ballots, Martin said. But that's only the case of close races, she said.

"Generally, once the trend is set it doesn't change too much," she said.

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