SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — The 2019 Spokane County Primary had a slightly higher voter turnout than the average Spokane primary based on data from 2012 to now, but the mayoral race didn't bring a record number of voters to the polls.
The primary elections between 2012 and 2019 on average have seen a voter turnout of about 33 percent in Spokane County. The 2019 primary's voter turnout currently sites at 34.41 percent -- higher than average, but lower than primaries in 2018 and 2014.
When all general and primary elections between 2012 and 2019 are averaged, the ballot return sits at 44.14 percent.
This follows the general trend of primary turnout versus general election turnout. The average of all primaries since 2012 (other than the 2016 presidential-only primary) is 31.01 percent. The average turnout for all general elections since 2012 almost doubles this, standing at 57.82 percent.
This means that during an average year, about half of the Spokane County voters that ultimately decide who will lead as mayors, councilmembers and those who sit on school boards are not represented in that year’s primary.
This can lead to drastically different outcomes between general elections and primary elections, such as when incumbent Spokane Mayor Mary Verner won 60 percent of the vote in the 2011 primary, but then lost to current Spokane Mayor David Condon by five points.
Verner was also on the other side of this in 2007, when she finished just behind Dennis Heshenn in the Primary, but then won by five points in the General to become mayor.
That also means that this year, the mayor’s race is up for grabs when it comes to the November General Election between Nadine Woodward, who sits at 41.67 percent in the primary election votes as of 3 p.m. on Aug. 8, and Ben Stuckart, who sits at 37.26 percent.
While Woodward currently sits in front after the primary, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Stuckart to experience enough of a swing to win the general election come November.
Some differences also exist in the same types of elections based on whether or not there it is a presidential election year, or even a midterm year for national offices.
Both primaries and general elections in presidential election years see higher ballot returns than those in years without a presidential election.
Ballot returns in presidential-year general elections in Spokane County are high, with 78.04 percent of ballots being returned. When the presidency isn't up for grabs, voters interest seems to drop, with turnout lowering to 49.73 percent, or just about half of all voters turning out.
Turnout drops even further if there are no federal elections at all, with ballot returns dropping 39.99 percent in years that don’t contain a presidential election or national midterm elections.
Primaries are no exception to these trends, either. A drop of about five percent happens between presidential and non-presidential election years in Spokane County primaries, but this drops a further four percent in years that also don’t have midterms.