Data Dump: Why Seattle City Council Will Look Very Different When All the Votes are Counted


UPDATE: (2:46PM, Thursday)  King County Elections had to evacuate their office yesterday due to a suspicious powder they received in the mail, and it put them behind in tallying votes. This morning they recorded a large number of additional votes that they have received but not tallied yet – the existence of which was not reflected in their press releases yesterday. That makes some of the data, and the conclusions I draw below, less accurate. Rather than post a mid-day update with partial data (which won’t provide a good apples-to-apples comparison), I’m going to update this tonight with consistent, accurate and complete data with the end-of-day numbers from King County Elections on both ballots received and the vote counts for each candidate. Stay tuned.

What happened?  Voter apathy. The ballot returns are barely above the levels of the August primary, and well below the numbers for two years ago. Here’s a good summary chart tracking the day-by-day returns, compared with previous elections (“ED” stands for “Election Day”):

When looking at the age breakdown of voters, it also suggests that this was a repeat of the August primary. The same people stayed home.

That’s more bad news for Tammy Morales. On Election Day in August, she had 48% of the vote. In the following days she picked up four points and finished at 52%. This time she’s at 45.3% on Election Day (45.5% Wednesday) and four points won’t push her over the top. Of note: so far both Strauss and Morales have fewer votes in this election (and a lower percentage of total votes) than they did at the same point in time in the primary when they were competing with a wider field of candidates; not only did they not consolidate votes from candidates that were eliminated, but they lost some of their base. And apparently neither managed to motivate more voters to turn in their ballots.

Two last (but very interesting) charts: first, comparing the number of ballots returned by Council district. D6 has a very engaged voter base. D7 and D2, not so much.

That chart is a bit unfair, because while the seven districts have approximately the same population, they have vastly different numbers of registered voters:

D1 reg voters:74,574
D2 reg voters:65,990
D3 reg voters:73,945
D4 reg voters:60,600
D5 reg voters:69,549
D6 reg voters:77,438
D7 reg voters:58,884

What is perhaps more meaningful to look at the number of ballots cast as a percentage of registered voters:

D6 has a lot of voters and they vote in (relatively) high numbers. D4 has much fewer voters, but high turnout. D2 has incredibly low turnout.

Unless there are some dramatic surprises in the uncounted ballots (or King County doesn’t get a good chunk of ballots counted tomorrow), six of the seven should be conclusive by tonight (D2 is likely going to be very close).

Kevin Schofield
Kevin Schofield
Kevin is a city hall reporter and the founder of SCC Insight, a web site focused on providing independent news and analysis of the Seattle City Council and Seattle City Hall in general. In a previous life, he worked for 26 years in the tech industry in a variety of positions but most notably as the COO of the research division at Microsoft. Kevin volunteers at the Woodland Park Zoo, where he is also on the Board of Directors. He is also the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Harvey Mudd College.


  1. Thank you for bringing up District 4, which includes much of the U. District and Lake City. Four has a high voter turnout …. but most news outlets don’t bother with it, except The Stranger. (One reason I can’t help but retain some respect for “Seattle’s Only Newspaper” — Stranger’s slogan, not mine.) The problems in Four are many–a rising crime rate, including violent crime, homeless encampments–but an uninformed population is not one of them. There was a hotly contested match-up between progressive tech guy, the enormously likable Ron Davis and the more pragmatic Maritza Rivera, who was unfairly branded as ridiculous pro-cop by The Stranger. She’s winning.


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