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November 3, 2010 at 11:10 AM

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King County expects to make or beat turnout estimate

Posted by Jim Brunner

One of the biggest remaining questions in the U.S. Senate race is how much of the remaining vote will come from King County.

Republican Dino Rossi's campaign has been pushing back on the notion that King County will really hit its 68 percent voter turnout estimate.

But King County Elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom says the county is right on track to hit that target - or beat it.

King County already has received 675,000 ballots, including the 374,000 counted last night, according to van Ekstrom. The county received about 114,000 ballots in the mail this morning alone.

And that doesn't include 20,000 or more ballots deposited at drop boxes, or the hundreds of voters who waited in long lines yesterday at three voting stations.

King County had estimated a voter turnout of 68 percent, which would translate into about 727,000 votes.

"We are fairly sure that we will exceed that estimate," van Ekstrom said.

That would be good news for incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, unless the King County percentages shift dramatically in Rossi's favor.

King County plans to release an additional count of about 45,000 votes today at 4:30 p.m.

In addition to hoping King County's turnout is depressed - or the margins here turn his way - the Rossi campaign has been banking on bigger numbers in areas where he's leading, such as Spokane County.

Mike McLaughlin, elections manager for Spokane County, said his projection for a 67 percent - about 175,000 total votes cast - turnout appears on track. With more than 75,000 ballots counted last night, McLaughlin said his staff has an additional 70,000 ballots on hand today, and they are awaiting a mail drop around noon.

He said that about 30,000 ballots are already ready to count, and his staff would be processing ballots throughout the day prior to a 5 p.m. vote dump.

We'll have more updates from big counties as we get them.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.