If Western Washington existed as a state, you'd see marriage equality being approved by a sizable 55-45, a Democrat winning the gubernatorial by a similar margin, and the state going to Obama/Biden by a margin of 20 points.
It's important to note that all 2012 poll figures below are from Wednesday morning's results. The consensus is that major state-wide polls are unlikely to change since the majority of uncounted ballots are coming from liberal King County.
Washington State is certainly not alone in wanting to split itself up, just look at California, Florida, and Illinois. However, the outcome of the 2012 election paints an unmistakable picture of the political divide between the more urban, liberal Western Washington and rural, conservative Eastern Washington. It's been an unusual example of bipartisanship, with both Democrats and the GOP saying that it might be in their best interests.
First off, those unfamiliar with the state, the Cascade Mountains divide Washington into east and west. The map below is the one the State Legislature considered in 2005
This divides the population where Western Washington claims nearly 78% of the current boundaries.
I'll first point to Referendum 74, the initiative sent by the State Legislature for marriage equality. Numbers are from this morning's release of figures from the Washington State Department.
Zack Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, commented on their victory statement saying how they can guarantee victory even before the count is finished because the referendum is fairing better than 2009's "Everything But Marriage" domestic partnership bill. Though I can no longer find the by county results, Spokane County (on the eastern edge) rejected the measure 60-40 while King County (home to Seattle) approved it 66-33. This led some to take another look at East-West division.
Referendum 74 WESTERN WASHINGTON EASTERN WASHINGTON APPROVE (52%) 54.85% 38.38% REJECT (48%) 45.15% 61.62%
R-74 certainly does have better support in Spokane County this time around (43-57, opposed), it is unmistakable the vast differences between the two sides.
More results below the fold...
It isn't just limited to political issues, but also economic. As the Stranger argued:
"Indeed, if Washington is a welfare state, it is residents in these mostly rural, mostly Eastern, mostly Republican counties who are the biggest beneficiaries, while taxpayers here in the blue parts of the state are left footing the bill. And while your typical liberal Seattleite might be neither surprised nor disturbed at this revelation, the degree of the gap between who benefits from state government and who pays for it may come as a bit of a shock."
click to enlarge (source: Office of Financial Management, 2008)
Through expenditures like healthcare (Department of Social and Health Services) and education, the GOP-controlled counties and cities in Eastern Washington shy away from looking to new local revenues to pay for such services. Instead, the heavily taxed liberal areas of the state (namely Seattle and King County) have their coffers flowing eastward. Because the state government has been mostly Democratically-controlled since 1997, budgetary plans must draw their revenues from western counties to fund liberally-supported services in conservative eastern counties.
As the articles author noted in 2011, there are many budget cuts that will have to be made in Washington State. I'm sure some of us recall the coup d'état that some Dems pulled with the budget last time around, and I'm heard some opinions where that could be expected again in the new session. In separating the state, the vast majority of Washingtonians whom reside in the western half might then fair better without having another half of the state to support. That might mean less of a taxing constraint on residents and better funding for the DSHS and school districts.
Healthcare Per Capita Cost Per Student WESTERN $662 $5,977 EASTERN $1,006 $36,427
I think it would also force Eastern Washington to take a good look at themselves and see how they're able to effectively be as fiscally responsible as the Republicans they elect say we should be.
But also, what would that mean for electoral votes? No doubt the national Democrats would prefer for a whole state that is lopsided Democratic. Washington State has always been an easy victory for Team Blue, and until the 2024 elections, will be a reliable 12 electoral votes.
If the state had be separated, I'd expect for Western Washington to get 9 electoral votes whereas the East gets 3. Simple coming from the 75-25 split in population. Advantage: Democrats.
WESTERN (9) EASTERN (3) OBAMA/BIDEN 60.15% 41.63% ROMNEY/RYAN 39.85% 58.37%
Washington State has also carried at least one Democratic Senator consistently since 1923, and no doubt that with the split that Western Washington would maintain two Democrats and the East two Republicans. Effectively no net loss in the Senate. Even then, with the booming Hispanic population in Yakima County and across Eastern Washington, it's not outside the realm of possibility that a Democrat could be elected on Hispanic support.
In the House of Representatives, districts east of the Cascades are already in Republican control: the 4th and the 5th. They border what would become the East-West divide. Simple.
It's something that I've been pondering this whole election, and the more I read about it, the more it makes sense to me and everyone I ask about it.