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Primaries 2016: Who Cares? You Should.

July 18, 2016

Only about 30% of King County registered voters bother to vote in the primary elections. This year's primary election is on August 2. Will voters choose vacation over voting? Do the primaries even matter? KCTS 9 examines what's at stake on the ballot.

Ballots are already out for the August 2 primaries and in-person registration is still available until July 25 at county election departments.

See the full list of ballot initiatives on the Washington Secretary of State's website or by logging into MyVote.

Who votes?

In the 2014 General Election, King County had a 54% turnout, well above the national average of 36.4% (the lowest in 70 years), but below the 2012 turnout of 84%. The national average was 53.6%.

Because voter registration does not capture race or income, it is difficult to break down the types of voters that participate, but based on national studies, these factors do contribute to the likelihood that someone will vote. Typically ,white, upper-class citizens participate at a higher rate than their minority counterparts, but in the 2012 General Election, there was a higher national turnout of black voters (66%) than white voters (64.1%).

For King County, the lowest voter participation seems to correspond with those areas where more minorities and low-income families live (see gallery below). This seems to be the general trend, but there are many regions where this does not directly correlate. Many factors contribute to this, such as ballot drop-off locations, access to transportation and available leisure time.

In 2009, King County began a mail-in ballot system which was supposed to increase voter turnout. The 2010 election did not reflect this intended result, with voter turnout holding steady at 53%. It may be too early to draw conclusions on the all mail-in system since 2012 (84%) witnessed an increase as compared to 2010 (71%), but was a presidential election year. The 2008 election year, before the mail-in system and also a presidential election year, saw a 84% turnout.

In an additional push to increase voter registration, King County will increase the number of existing ballot drop-off locations, from 10 to 29 for the primary election and 43 for the general election. This means that 91.5% of county residents will have a drop-off box located within three miles of their home. You can view a map of drop-off locations on the King County website.

The demographic maps below are provided by King County, based on 2010 census data. Please note that the first voter turnout map is for the 2014 election. The last voter turnout map shows data on the 2010 voter turnout.


Made possible in part by

Stacey Jenkins

Stacey Jenkins is the managing producer of Spark Public. She is an Emmy-award winning producer who is passionate about pushing the boundaries of digital media and training the next generation of multimedia journalists. Stacey has been a Digital Content Producer at KCTS 9 for the past four years; her stories have been showcased locally on IN Close as well as nationally on SciTech Now and the PBS NewsHour's Art Beat. Stacey’s experience also includes working as a senior producer for KPTS, as an assistant media instructor and producer for Portland Community College and a TV news reporter for the CBC in Canada.

Fun Fact: Stacey’s guilty pleasures include over-the-top Halloween decor, eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can and Maroon 5’s “Sugar” video.

More stories by Stacey Jenkins