Politics & Government

Pierce County is 38th of 39 counties for voter turnout

The choices of the 27 percent of Pierce County voters who bothered to cast ballots in the Aug. 5 primary election became official Friday with state certification of the results.

Election Day figures held up, with no major reversals from the early returns.

In the biggest nail-biter, Pierce County District Court judge candidate Karl Williams hung on by expanding his slim second-place lead, eliminating third-place Sandy Allen. Williams and primary voters’ top choice, Jeannette Lineberry, will face off in the Nov. 4 general election to replace Judge Patrick O’Malley.

Congressional incumbents cruised. Republicans had a strong showing they hope will be a preview of this fall’s contest for control of the state Senate. Fire and emergency-response levies passed, but Peninsula School District voters rejected a school bond and a capital levy.

Few voters had a hand in those decisions. Pierce County ranked 38th of 39 counties for voter turnout.

County Auditor Julie Anderson had predicted 36 percent turnout, the same level as in the 2012 primary. But in a year with less national attention on campaigns and no statewide races on the Washington ballot, just 27 percent of Pierce County’s 442,910 registered voters ended up turning in their ballots.

State turnout of 31 percent fell short of Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s predictions by about the same margin.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” Anderson said. “We put a lot of time and a ton of resources into laying the banquet table, if you will, and when only a few guests RSVP and even fewer show up to eat, it’s a waste of resources.”

Anderson said general-election turnout should roughly double the primary’s. Dueling initiatives related to gun background checks on are on the ballot.

“I think the initiatives are going to generate a lot of interest,” Anderson said, “not just with their money but with the head-on kind of opposing philosophies on the ballot at the same time.”