As of last Friday, only 32% of registered voters had turned in their ballots statewide, compared to 38.4% four days before the last midterm election in 2018.
Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop their ballots off in a ballot box, or at their county election center, or in the mail, without a stamp. But only ballots that have been postmarked on Tuesday will be counted, so the other two options are the better bet.
Washington state also allows same-day registration and voting in person, up to 8 p.m. on Election Day. If you cannot find your ballot, you can pick up a new one at your county elections site or online where you check your registration, but you cannot register online on Election Day.
The most closely watched Washington elections this year are the contests for U.S. Senate and the 3rd and 8th congressional districts.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a five-term incumbent and member of the Democratic leadership, faces perhaps her fiercest election challenge since first winning election to the Senate in 1992. A tremendous amount of cash has been spent by Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley and independent groups in this race and polls are predicting the race will be tight.
The 8th District is one of the key seats targeted by Republicans to take back Congress. This is the third challenge for Rep. Kim Schrier, who took the seat out of Republican hands in 2018 and fended off a challenger in 2020. The Democrat and pediatrician faces Woodinville businessman Matt Larkin, holding tight to the Republican agenda on taxes, health care, the economy, environmental policy and against restoring nationwide abortion rights.
In the 3rd, the incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was defeated in the primary, leaving Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez to battle Republican Joe Kent. In this race of contrasts, voters in Southwest Washington are choosing between Kent, a Trump-endorsed America First special forces veteran and intelligence operative, and Gluesenkamp Perez, a rural Skamania County Democrat who owns an auto shop in Portland.
Voters across Washington are also voicing their opinions on who should represent them in the state Legislature. All 98 House seats and 25 of 49 Senate seats are up for election. While Democrats have been favored to keep their majorities in the House and Senate, they could lose or pick up seats in a series of competitive swing districts. Meanwhile, Seattle-area voters will make choices for some open legislative seats amid a slew of retirements by lawmakers.
Voters are also tasked with deciding a special election for Washington’s Secretary of State, who among other things oversees the state’s vote-by-mail system and certifies elections. Voters this year will choose between appointed Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, and Julie Anderson, a nonpartisan challenger and Pierce County Auditor. Meanwhile, state Rep. Brad Klippert is running as a Republican write-in candidate.
Residents will weigh in on local candidates and issues, as well. They include a contest for King County Prosecutor, a proposed minimum-wage hike in Tukwila, and whether to implement ranked-choice voting or approval voting – or neither – in the city of Seattle. In the meantime, King County voters will decide whether to shift some of their elections to even-numbered years.
King County Elections Director Julie Wise says about 36% of King County voters had turned in their ballots as of Monday morning. That remains noticeably lower than the 44% of voters who had cast a ballot by this time in 2018, the last midterm election, she said.
"We're just seeing a little bit sluggish turnout," said Wise. She expects the county's turnout to ultimately hit 72%, down from 76% in the last midterm.
Although turnout so far is lower, Wise said county voting centers saw 230 more people over the weekend than predicted.
The county hasn't received any reports of voter intimidation or threats against election works, Wise said, and no unusual digital incursions in voting systems have been detected.
Elections officials have been working to dispel doubts voters may have about Washington's vote-by-mail system. And Wise said her office has Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan election observers watching in the elections building as ballots are taken in and processed.
"We're just continuing to work on messaging for people's skepticism about elections," she said.