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County Projects 50 Percent Turnout

October 20th, 2009 by Steven Gardner

Kitsap County elections officials are projecting about 50 percent of eligible Kitsap voters will actually vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Dolores Gilmore, elections manager, said past odd-year general elections might have been higher, but had more statewide issues generating interest.

She said the county is expecting higher turnout in the four incorporated cities.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State is predicting 51 percent turnout statewide. His press release follows.

Reed projects 51 percent Washington voter turnout

Voter turnout should be a respectable 51 percent for the General Election that is now under way across Washington, Secretary of State Sam Reed predicted Monday.

This off-year election follows a record-high turnout of 85 percent in last year’s hotly contested presidential-gubernatorial election year. With no statewide contests or congressional battles on the ballot this year to spur voter interest, the turnout should be about average for an off-year, Reed said. As of Oct. 12, Washington has 3,575,498 registered voters. More than 50,000 registrations have been culled from the rolls since last November’s record registration of over 3.63 million.

Records for the past four decades show that odd-year turnouts average around 51 or 52 percent, with some higher spikes in years with multiple controversial ballot measures. An assortment of good local races, a pair of hotly debated state ballot measures, and the popularity of vote-by-mail should keep this year’s turnout on pace, Reed said.

Some counties surveyed by the state Elections Division said they expect to exceed the Secretary’s prediction. King County, which has open races for County Executive and Seattle Mayor that are generating a lot of attention, is expecting 56 percent, for instance. On the other hand, some large counties’ projections are lower: Spokane, 50; Pierce, 45; and Clark, for instance. At the other end of the spectrum, Clallam is hoping for a 70 percent turnout.

Reed, the state’s chief elections official, said a pair of significant ballot measures, local government races, and scattered legislative and judicial races provide plenty of good reasons to vote.

“It is important that we all follow up on all of the great enthusiasm we experienced in the 2008 elections, and that we stay engaged in our communities and help make wise choices in these difficult economic times,” said Reed.

“The election this year features our choices for local government, our mayors and councilmembers, our county leaders, our port commissioners and others who will face crucial decisions in the days and months ahead,” said Reed, who remains an advocate for local government after spending more than 22 years as Thurston County’s auditor before being elected to his current post in 2000. “Our local governments are the level closest to our daily lives, affecting everything from potholes and transportation projects to budget priorities and the future of our schools and our ports.”

Reed said many voters are “perfect” voters and take pride in casting ballots every single election. This year, others will be drawn by two heavily debated statewide ballot measures:

–Referendum 71, domestic partner benefits. This measure asks voters to approve or reject domestic partnership legislation that passed the Legislature last spring.

–Initiative 1033, revenue limits. This measure proposes capping annual growth in city and county general funds, with excess revenue dedicated to property tax relief.

Nearly all of the state is voting by mail, including populous King County, which switched earlier this year. Pierce County retains some poll sites, but most Pierce voters cast ballots by mail. The convenience and popularity of ballots automatically arriving at voters’ home boosts turnout statewide, Reed said.

Ballots went out over the weekend, and must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3.

Reed is challenging the voters to outshine the predictions.

“It’s sad to think of nearly half the electorate sitting this one out, particularly when so much is at stake,” he said. “Your voice is needed,” Reed said.

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10 Responses to “County Projects 50 Percent Turnout”

  1. Mick Sheldon Says:

    1033 on taxes , and 71 on homosexual marriage will bring out voters .
    But I can’t help but believe if we were all voting, these issues would have been settled by our legislature and not used as political footballs. Reed is right, it is a bad commentary on us if only half our our citizens vote.

  2. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Mick you are right. There is a rather large disconnect with the public when it comes to their understanding of how much influence some of the most basic local positions have over their lives.

    For example, people will rush to vote on 1033 because they realize it will affect their taxes and or cut their programs. Yet they will pay little attention to or not even vote for School Board Director Positions. The same School Board Directors who will be making critical, immediate decisions on how to spend the tax money already collected from the voters on education. The same School Board Directors who will be dealing with the ramifications of 1033 if passed. The same School Board Directors who will soon be dealing with more cuts to education coming from the state because of the deficit and will shortly be placing a levy on the ballot for the same group of voters to ignore or vote on.

    People in this community need to wake up, get a clue and cast an informed vote.

  3. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Speaking of school board directors …I’m voting now and came online here to refresh my information about one race – CKSD 401, District 2.

    I don’t have enough information about Mark Gaines/Robert C. MacDermid – not enough to vote for one over the other.
    I can’t find the KS recommendation … where is it?

    Bit by bit, Colleen, you and others are informing the public. The educational system didn’t fail overnight, it won’t come back overnight either. Take a deep breath and keep chugging …
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Thanks Sharon…I sincerely do appreciate it :-)

  5. Registered Voter Says:

    For example, people will rush to vote on 1033 because they realize it will affect their taxes and or cut their programs. Yet they will pay little attention to or not even vote for School Board Director Positions.

    Indeed. One reason could be that 1033 is a statewide initiative which affects much more than education, whereas if a resident doesn’t like how a school board or district is operating, s/he can try to move their child to a better one, relocate to another one, or place their child(ren) in private school. Not that this excuses the generally apathetic voter.

  6. Colleen Smidt Says:

    True RV, but my usage of the education/school board was just one example. Ramification of the passage of the statewide 1033 will have significant ripple effects to lower local levels of government (County, City, Fire Districts, Prosecutors Office etc..) and its elected officials. I simply used the education/school board example because it is the publically elected entity I am most familiar with in a budgetary, operational sense.

    Voters making critical tax/spend/limit decisions at the state level who do not follow through and use their vote at the local level to ensure that the right elected individuals are in place to deal with the ramifications from such a decision, are only jeopardizing the effect of their original vote by taking a big gamble on how it will play out in their own community and neighborhood in the hands of potentially the wrong type of leadership. That is the way I see it anyway.

  7. Registered Voter Says:

    Indeed. Though even at the macro level, American voter turnout for federal elections is unimpressive for candidates and decisions which can potentially impact many more lives. It isn’t surprising, then, that those numbers might trickle down to other levels.

    People in Kitsap do seem to care about mayors, county and (some) port commissioners. Perhaps less so about water and fire, though these, too can be volatile and/or political. School Board Directors were merely an example, but it’s true not many care about them – unless there’s some drama created around it – because people consider it small potatoes compared to other major areas with much larger impact/budgets. They’re not ‘sexy’, or perhaps some expect public education in some parts of the country or world to always be mediocre at best.

    Who knows? We’re keeping the matters front and centre wherever possible, which is all anyone can do.

  8. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Yes RV that is true. Voters also tend to forget that individuals who eventually go on to become career politicians get their start somewhere. That somewhere is usually at a very basic local election level such as the school boards, port commissions, water districts and etc..mentioned here. They build upon their political “career” by working their way up through more important positions of leadership and power. I am not saying this is a bad process just that the opportunity for either the advancement of an excellent public servant or the weeding out of individuals who are inappropriate, or are lacking in their leadership abilities or ethics could more easily occur if voters were more focused on what is going on in their own backyard and community.

    And I hope some of the discussions here are in fact leading voters to become more interested and involved in the local issues surrounding them every day whether they agree with us or not.

    Have we (the bloggers) become our own special version of a local “Public Service Announcement”? :-)

  9. Registered Voter Says:

    I don’t think they forget…they just don’t care until the office the person is holding, and the decisions being made, truly matter to them. Even then, it’s a question of how much it will cost or the political ramifications. Some people will watch every penny whilst others only engage when the amount impacts in a poignant way.

    But yes, some allow mediocrity to rise through the ranks – only to complain once that person reaches higher office and encounters The Peter Principle or makes a big mistake. And of course, there are the Derek Kilmers of the world who go straight from the top (Princeton, Oxford) into leadership positions.

    These blogs do indeed inspire some to seek facts and information on an issue reported. On many occasions the topics will be covered in more depth than a brief article, with the opportunity to create change.

    And as we all know, for others it is simply a place to vent one’s spleen.
    ;-0

  10. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Yes. I really like and respect Derek. He IS the exception in many, many ways.

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