There seems to be a lot of confusion over the vote count in WA-08 — even the utltra-reliable Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo got it wrong — so let’s clarify a few things.
First, WA-08 spans King and Pierce Counties; over the past two elections about 81 percent of the votes have come from King, about 19 percent from Pierce. Currently Darcy Burner is leading in King County by about 0.75 percent, and losing Pierce by about 13 percent. Dave Reichert has been holding about a 2,700 vote lead.
Second, when the King and Pierce County results pages say 100% of precincts have reported, they are only referring to the poll votes, which will account for only around 20 percent of the total votes cast. The vast majority of votes were cast by mail.
Things don’t get any easier from there. Pierce reports that it has 65,000 ballots left to count, and King reports 189,000, but as we learned in 2004, these are only estimates and could even now be off by the tens of thousands, while thousands more ballots are still arriving every day. To further complicate the math, we have no idea how many of the remaining ballots actually fall within the boundaries of WA-08. In 2004 WA-08 accounted for about 30 percent of all King County ballots and about 20 percent of those cast in Pierce — but the absentee ballots are counted in no particular order, so it is quite possible that WA-08 is significantly over or under represented in the current count.
So how many ballots are really left to count? Who knows? If you assume that ballots counted thus far have been evenly distributed geographically, and you go by the ballots left to count reports, there should be about 57,000 WA-08 ballots left to count in King and about 13,000 in Pierce… but that just strikes me as way too low. This would produce a total turnout in WA-08 of about 223,000, compared to 336,499 in 2004 (a presidential election year and an open seat) and 203,335 in 2002 (a year when popular incumbent Jennifer Dunn faced no serious competition.) I find it hard to believe that turnout would be closer to 2002 than to 2004. But who knows?
And then there are the provisional ballots. Probably numbering in excess of 10,000 in King County alone. Just like in recounts, provisionals tend to favor Democrats, because let’s face it… on average, we simply have more trouble voting. These will be the last ballots to be counted, and could produce a several hundred vote surge for Burner at the very end.
So here’s my not very bold guess: only 40 to 60 percent of ballots have already been counted. That leaves plenty of room for Burner to erase a 2,700 vote deficit.