Election turnout in Seattle and across Washington indicates that no matter how toxic this year’s politics seem, the voting public is revved up to participate.

Statewide ballot totals released by the Secretary of State’s office showed that as of Thursday, nearly 1.6 million voters — 33% of the electorate — had already participated. That’s about a week ahead of the 2016 pace. King County voters’ early turnout was 10 times that of the first few days of 2016 voting.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and King County Elections Director Julie Wise have said there’s potential for a 90% turnout, statewide and locally. That’s within reach if this year’s remarkable participation continues. It would set a historic high-water mark, as far back as the state’s records go. It would also show the nation Washington engineered a vote-by-mail system to handle a high-stress election. 

Between concerns about cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service and the hotly contested presidential race, the opportunity to vote early is drawing an enthusiastic response. Ballot boxes are filling up. King and Spokane county elections officials stepped up their collection schedules.

For those yet to vote, here is some advice about the process:

  • Any eligible adult who still needs to register to vote should do so now. While it’s too late to mail in a registration form, Monday is the deadline for Washington voters with state-issued identification to register online at olvr.votewa.gov. In-person registration at county elections offices, with pandemic precautions, can be done until voting ends Nov. 3.
  • Undecided? Need insight on the issues and candidates? This editorial board’s full slate of endorsements is available at st.news/2020electionendorsements
  • Voting early is better than late. Even in off-year elections, lines develop at county drop boxes on Election Day. If mailing a ballot, elections officials say that should be done by the Friday before the election.
  • Turning your ballot in at a county drop box is a good option. It not only avoids the remote possibility of mail delays but also saves Washington’s cash-strapped government the cost of paying postage. In the early balloting, about 64% of voters used drop boxes, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
  • After returning a ballot, voters should check ballot status online at votewa.gov to verify it has been received and accepted. “Curing” a ballot that’s been rejected for mismatched signature or another issue, or getting a replacement ballot to fill out and return takes time and effort.

Decades of work honing Washington’s vote-by-mail architecture have the state well-placed for this year’s most unusual election, marked by a deeply polarized electorate, high-turnout vote and recognized interference from foreign countries, during a pandemic. Washingtonians don’t have to travel to polling places, stand in long lines for hours or even buy postage to take part in this historic election.

So read up, take part and encourage others to participate.