As noted in
today’s Kitsap Sun editorial, voter turnout throughout Kitsap
County in Tuesday’s primary was a “deplorable” 22 percent. Kitsap
County elections manager Dolores Gilmore said the turnout was
comparable to off-year elections in the early 1990s, before
Voter turnout in South Kitsap was even lower, but was it apathy
or something else? With 39,199 registered voters eligible to vote
in the South Kitsap School District race for the district 3
position, only 5,385 ballots were counted as of the close of
business at the auditor’s office on election day. That’s up to
6,023 today, still a scanty 15 percent.
Is it possible South Kitsap voters were boycotting what amounted
straw poll? Current unofficial results show incumbent Naomi
Polen, with 31.73 percent of the vote, trailing challenger Chris
Lemke, a former board member, with 45.03 percent. A second
Gail F. Porter, is ineligible to serve because she moved out of
the director district after filing. According to the Kitsap County
auditor’s office, the deadline to withdraw had passed by the time
Porter made the move known. Porter’s name, therefore, appeared on
the ballot, and she received 19.06 percent of the vote. Now,
there’s nearly 20 percent of the 39,199 who are either in denial or
not in tune with local media. As the editorial notes, we ran a
story on the issue.
The hey of it is, the primary, results of which carry no weight,
will cost South Kitsap School District an estimated $70,000. Before
the election, I checked with Dolores Gilmore to see if the district
would save any money if people did in fact boycott the primary.
Dolores said no; most of the cost associated with the primary is
incurred in preparation and distribution of ballots.
Based on turnout numbers in the South Kitsap race, however, one
might guess some people made that assumption and shredded their
ballots. Either that or SKSD voters are in a complacent slump.
There’s been considerable discussion on the
blog entry post posted the day of the primary about Porter’s
ineligibility and its implications for South Kitsap School
District. I’ll respond to a few points made.
Bob Meadows pointed out that there are essentially two deadlines
for withdrawal from a race. The candidate can withdraw up to the
Thursday following filing week without having to give any reason.
Secondly, the candidate can withdraw beyond that date at the
election official’s (auditor’s office) discretion up to the day the
ballots are ordered. I checked with Dolores Gilmore. The ballots
were ordered June 15. According to Gilmore, she did not learn of
Porter’s ineligibility to serve until
Aug. June 18, when
Porter came in to change her voter registration address.
School Board member Kathryn Simpson (in comments on the previous
blog post and elsewhere) has given a different accounting of who
knew what, when. I invited Dolores to respond to Kathryn’s
statements, and Dolores declined, saying it was the formal position
of the auditor’s office not to engage in discussion on the blog
regarding this issue. In short, she had no comment. South Kitsap
School District is pursuing legal advice on whether there is any
way to mitigate the amount is has to pay for the primary. Stay
Finally, Bob Meadows notes that Porter would be eligible to
serve if, hypothetically, she were to move back into district 3.
Bob suggested that the nearly 20 percent of voters who favored
Porter may have been encouraging her to do so. Porter would be
eligible to serve under those hypothetical circumstances if she
were still in the race. But that’s a moot point now, because she
still got the fewest votes in the primary.
South Kitsap’s situation is a cautionary tale for both school
districts – who are liable to incur the cost of elections even in
the rare instances like this when they turn into straw polls – and
candidates – who set in motion the wheels of elections law when
they file for office.
Let it be said here that school board candidates probably aren’t
in it for the money. SKSD board policy based on state law allows
board members a stipend of $50 per meeting, but, according to
district spokeswoman Aimee Warthen, not all claim compensation.
They are paid for travel expenses to conferences (not in glamorous
locales – unless you consider Spokane glamorous). The position
requires hours of reading dry materials laden with edu-speak and
sitting through meetings that are typically well attended (or
attended at all) only when constituents are angry about
Given the above, the district ostensibly should be grateful for
anyone willing to run. Regardless, potential candidates should be
fully informed of the responsibility of the position and the
financial implications to the district.
For the record, I became aware on July 1 that Porter had moved
out of district 3 and did not act on it until late in July (my
story ran July 28). Technically, acting on the information sooner
would not have made any difference because the deadline had already
passed. But it’s been a cautionary tale for me. And believe me, if
a similar situation arises in the future, I won’t put it on the