Officials expect high voter turnout

November 5, 2012 

A steady stream of cars and trucks filed into the West Canal Drive parking lot Monday, and Wilma Barton was there to greet them.

The Benton County elections worker had been on duty since 8 a.m., accepting ballots through rolled down windows, handing out "I voted" stickers in return. She showed no signs of slowing down by late afternoon.

And the line showed no signs of easing.

The county annex in Kennewick is a popular ballot drop-off location, and election officials this year added the drive-up feature to ease congestion in the parking lot. Barton stood at a table marked off with bright orange cones, next to a sign advertising "Drive-up ballot box."

She fielded questions, accepted praise for the new set-up and slid ballots into a secure blue bag that was growing heavier by the minute.

"You getting a lot of results?" one man asked her as he handed over his ballot.

"A lot of ballots, yes," Barton answered.

Another man handed over his envelope with a grin. "Who's winning?" he asked.

Barton smiled back and said she didn't know.

Today is the deadline to mail or drop off ballots in the general election.

Officials in Benton and Franklin counties plan to release a first round of returns after 8 p.m. today, with daily updates to follow as more ballots are counted.

County election results will be certified Nov. 27.

Officials in both counties are forecasting relatively high turnout, citing the presidential race and several high-profile state ballot measures and contests, along with numerous local races.

Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton estimates turnout in her county will be 85 percent to 90 percent. Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton said his county is on track to hit 81 percent, though it could go higher.

Both counties have several ballot drop-off locations. Benton County's new manned ballot drive-throughs were proving popular Monday, with roughly 1,800 ballots dropped off at the Kennewick site alone between 8 a.m. and late afternoon. Election staffers also manned a drive-up ballot box at the auditor's annex on Wellsian Way in Richland -- another traditionally busy location.

Here are the ballot drop-off spots in Benton County: the Benton County Courthouse in Prosser; Benton City City Hall; West Richland City Hall; Kennewick City Hall; the county annex on West Canal Drive in Kennewick; the auditor's annex on Wellsian Way in Richland; and Jefferson Park on Symons Street in Richland.

And in Franklin County: Fire District 3 on Road 84 in Pasco; the election center at 116 N. Third Ave. in Pasco; TRAC; Franklin County Courthouse parking lot; and the Franklin PUD shop on West Clark Street in Connell.

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