Here’s what you already know: On Nov. 6, Washington voters affirmed the state’s bipartisan freedom to marry law by voting 53.35% to 46.65% to approve Referendum 74. And with over 78% voter turnout, the electorate has spoken decisively on this matter.
Here’s what you may not know: “Approve” voters in counties rejecting the measure overall were crucial to the approval of Referendum 74.
Here’s how we know: A total* of 2,996,759 votes were cast for or against Referendum 74. Half of that number — 1,498,380 votes — were needed to win, but approve votes from majority-approving counties only totaled 1,026,613. That left a shortfall of 471,767 approve votes. Voters in majority-rejecting counties cast over 572,000 approve votes, making up the difference and then some.
In fact, approve voters living in majority-rejecting counties cast over one third (36%) of all the approve votes cast for Referendum 74. So don’t be misled by the Secretary of State’s two-toned map, which unfortunately makes the state look divided. “Approve” voters live everywhere, and every vote was vital in this election.
Pro-equality voters in rural and conservative counties did more than just vote, however. They talked to their friends, family and faith communities about why marriage is important to them, they came out publicly as straight allies, they doorbelled, phone banked, and donated to the statewide Approve R-74 campaign. Through these efforts they accomplished some stunning results beyond assuring Referendum 74’s statewide approval. The following are just a few examples.
Whitman County flipped from being majority-rejecting to majority-approving. In 2009, only 45% of voters in Whitman Co. voted to approve Referendum 71 and affirm the state’s domestic partnership law. This year, over 50% of the county’s voters approved Referendum 74, making Whitman Co. the first in eastern Washington to majority-approve a pro-LGBT statewide ballot measure.
Significant changes were also observed in neighboring Garfield County, the county with the lowest approval rate for Referendum 71 back in 2009. Although the majority of voters there also rejected Referendum 74, the approval rate for R-74 was 25% higher than it had been for R-71. This significant shift challenges the notion that voters in rural, majority-conservative localities are necessarily lost-causes.
Support for the freedom to marry continues to increase nationwide, and voters in Washington’s rural and conservative counties are very much a part of that trend.
* Numbers as of 6pm PDT on Nov. 16. Totals may change slightly since about 75,000 ballots remain uncounted.