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This chart from the Secretary of State's office shows the number of ballots returned in the week leading up to Election Day, plus the day after Election Day. Early voting in the 2018 midterm election is, so far, on track with ballot returns in 2016.
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This chart from the Secretary of State's office shows the number of ballots returned in the week leading up to Election Day, plus the day after Election Day. Early voting in the 2018 midterm election is, so far, on track with ballot returns in 2016.
Credit: Washington Secretary of State

Washington state voters are treating these midterms more like a presidential election

As Election Day nears, the voting data in Washington is looking more like a high-stakes, presidential year than a midterm election.

31 percent of people had turned in ballots as of Thursday morning. It's about the same number of voters that had turned in ballots by this time in 2016, the last presidential election.

That's surprising some political analysts. Voters are much less engaged, historically, in mid-terms.

One possible reason for the uptick is President Trump, according to Seattle University political scientist Patrick Schoettmer. He says Trump is much more involved in campaigning than presidents typically are in midterms.

Schoettmer: "By declaring that a vote for any Republican is a vote for him on the national ballot he might have been successful in making people think about this election in the same way they think about a presidential election."

Schoettmer says American voters have also become more engaged, overall, since the year 2000.

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He says this year Trump may influence Republicans to vote. But overall, he says a surge in turnout will tend to favor Democrats, who are out of power and angered with the state of politics.

Schoettmer: "Now when it comes to midterm turnout in particular we would generally think that higher turnout is more beneficial to Democrats... First of all Republicans are more regular voters, so if you have people showing up who normally don't show up, they're more likely to be a Democrat than a Republican."

In the 2014 midterm election, voter turnout was 54 percent. In 2016, a presidential year, it was 78 percent. Ballot returns are so far on track with 2016.

The deadline is Tuesday for people to mail in ballots in Washington.


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