On Monday Washington's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, boldly predicted a statewide turnout of 66% this election which would be the best turnout for a midterm election in the state in 40 years.
As a measure of comparison, the turnout for the last 4 midterm elections in Washington has averaged 45.8%. Minnesota has historically been the national leader in voter turnout -- something they take great pride in. In 2006, Minnesota's turnout was 60.1%, and in 2002 it was 64.1%, both of which were national highs in those elections.
For the record, Reed's track record of predictions is pretty good. Earlier this year he predicted a state record of 47% turnout for the primary. Turnout was 41%. In October 2008 he predicted a state turnout of 83% for the presidential election. Final turnout was 84.6%.
Of course, the larger the turnout the better for Washington Democrats, including Sen Patty Murray and Suzane DelBene who is challenging Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District. Reed is predicting that King County's turnout will be 68% and Seattle's will be 69%, which are both slightly more than most of the rest of the state. If Seattle even comes close to 69% turnout, Dino Rossi is toast. (In Seattle, Rossi is about as popular as the crewcut guy who bought the Sonics and moved them to Oklahoma City.)
Reed points to six factors in making his high-turnout prediction:
. The excellent turnout in the primary (41 percent, a modern record) was a clear indication of an active electorate.
. Voting by mail makes the process more convenient and promotes a somewhat higher participation. King County joined the VBM counties last year, and that fact alone should boost turnout a bit.
. Ballot measures – six citizen initiatives and three measures placed on the ballot by the Legislature – are generating heavy debate and campaign spending, including saturation broadcast spots.
. The U.S. Senate race, which could be pivotal to partisan control of the Senate, has generated heavy spending, and added great attention as a top-of-ballot contest.
. Many tight races for the Legislature, the U.S. House, and other offices are generating great interest.
. The political climate nationally is generating unusual attention to the election.
One point regarding the first bullet-point above. Although the primary turnout was heavy in the state, "a modern record", it wasn't all that great in King County. In fact, King County (Seattle/Bellevue) had the second worst turnout in the state (37.8%), only Pierce County (Tacoma) had a lower turnout (35.9%). Both of these counties bleed Democrat Blue.
The reason is clear -- most of the excitement during the primary was on the Republican side as GOP establishment favorite Dino Rossi battled it out with Tea Party favorite and Palin-endorsee Clint Didier. Most of Seattle couldn't care less, and I suspect many good Democrats sat out the primary.
But on the other hand, the primary turnout in the Repubican-heavy Eastern counties was over the top, several exceeding 60%. Sixty percent FOR A MIDTERM PRIMARY which would typically get about 30% turnout.
Sen Murray is well-respected and well-liked in the Seattle-Tacoma Metro area, and this week won a resounding endorsement by the state's largest newspaper, The Seattle Times. (The Times completed the circle today by endorsinig DelBene. The past two elections they endorsed Reichert.)
Murray will easily win Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties, the three counties that make up the larger metro area, and the three most populous counties in the state. More than half of the state's registered voters live in these three counties. A statewide candidate simply can't win unless he/she wins at least two of those three counties. In Washington's top-two primary, Murray won 53% of the votes cast in those three counties, compared to Rossi's 30%.
By the way, Secretary of State Sam Reed is an endangered species in statewide politics in Washington. He's a Republican. But even so, I don't know a single person who has a problem with Sam Reed. In fact, he's the Republican that Seattle Democrats vote for to show their openness to vote for a Republican.
Well, maybe Dino Rossi has a problem with ol' Sam. After losing to Christine Gregoire in the 2004 gubernatorial race, the closest statewide election ever -- a contest that featured two recounts and a state Supreme Court ruling and ultimately resulted in a 129-vote margin -- Reed was the one who certified her win despite Rossi's stated intention to continue to press on with more legal challenges. Reed certified, game over. And I don't think state Republicans have ever forgiven him for that.