A guide to Election Day results tracking (and last-minute voting)

Election Day is finally upon us. Here’s what’s going down tomorrow, and in the days to follow.

If you haven’t yet, there is still time to send in your ballot. You can drop it in the mail, though make sure it’s postmarked no later than November 5th or it won’t be counted — putting it in a mailbox after the last pickup of the day won’t work. You can also drop it in any of the King County Election drop boxes spread around the county. The drop boxes close at 8:00pm, so get it in before then. And you can also vote in person at a Vote Center, where there will be people ready to  help you to complete your ballot if you need assistance.

If you are not yet registered to vote, you can register and vote at the same time tomorrow at a Vote Center. If you have already voted and you want to make sure your ballot has been received and counted, you can check here.

King County validates and counts ballots as they arrive in the days before the election, and then continues counting during regular business hours for several days as more ballots trickle in through the mail. At 8:15pm tomorrow evening, the tally from the first batch of King County ballots will be published; on the following days updated numbers will be published around 4:00pm each weekday afternoon. Yes, this is different from how many cities and states do it; there is only one update each day, so don’t expect any additional news tomorrow night after the 8:15 numbers are announced. Tomorrow night’s results may include some or all of the ballots that arrive by mail tomorrow, and possibly some placed in drop boxes tomorrow morning, but it definitely won’t include those deposited in drop boxes toward the end of the day.

The final election results will be announced and certified on November 26th.

King County posts the daily counts on its web site. Here is where to go after 8:15pm tomorrow evening to see the current results:

Also, King County Elections has live webcams looking into the areas where thye are processing ballots, in case you want to watch the action in the coming days:

  • Election service center
  • Sorting
  • Signature verification
  • Opening
  • Ballot review
  • Scanning and tabulation

As of this evening’s count, King County has seen a 21.9% return rate for ballots. Seattle is doing slightly better at 23.4%, and district-by-district the return rates are:

  • District 1: 24.2%
  • District 2: 19.8%
  • District 3: 26.4%
  • District 4: 23.5%
  • District 5: 22.3%
  • District 6: 23.8%
  • District 7: 23.0%

The county is predicting the final county-wide return rate, once all the ballots are received and counted, to be around 43%. Expect Seattle to be a little higher than that; its return rate was 42.7% in the August primary, and general elections tend to get slightly higher return rates than the primaries. In the 2015 general election, the return rate in Seattle was 46.3%.

(indeed, it’s sad and pathetic that even in years where there is this much attention on the election races, we still struggle to get even half the registered voters to bother to vote)

One final note about interpreting tomorrow night’s results: the conventional wisdom in Seattle is that progressive voters tend to vote later. Because of that, in the days following the election the election results tend to move toward the left-leaning candidates by a few percentage points.  That means any results posted tomorrow night that have a moderate candidate winning with less than 55%  of the votes should not be considered definitive. There is always the chance that this election could play out differently, but this pattern held as recently as the August primary election.

Remember to vote!


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