The recent election in Seattle and the state registered very low turnout. The state figure was 36 percent of registered voters actually voting, the lowest since records began in 1936.
Lots of reasons have been adduced, including media decline, civic apathy, young voters opting out, incumbent-advantage, and the absence of ballot issues to stir up the voters.
I heard an interesting new hypohesis the other day: district elections in Seattle for city council. Shifting to district elections, as Seattle did by popular vote in 2015, means that voters can only vote for the candidates running in their district, while more exciting candidates may be in other districts. Voters feel disenfranchised. The same holds true for election of Seattle School Board candidates, where voters in the primary are restricted to a district.
District elections are touted to help elect minorities and to bind the candidates closer to a district. In fact, they might discourage voting and lock in incumbents. Not that shifting from district elections in Seattle would be easy, since the charges of racism and elitism would quickly be hurled. In Seattle, 7 of the 9 council seats are by-district, with two at-large. One of those at-large seats will soon be filled by a council vote, since Teresa Mosqueda, holder of one of those seats, has just been elected to the King County Council.