District opted out of voters’ guide

January 26, 2010

By Staff

The voters’ pamphlet mailed by King County Elections baffled Issaquah School District voters when the guide arrived in mailboxes earlier last week. The mailer contained no information about the three district levies on the Feb. 9 ballot.

The lack of information, however, was not a mistake. District officials opted not to include information in the guide to save money — about $7,000.

But the pamphlets confused voters because the elections office included information about other school district levies. Klahanie voters received pamphlets with information about the Vashon Island School District levy, while south Issaquah residents now know about Tahoma School District’s levy.

Kim van Ekstrom, a spokeswoman for the elections office, said the format resulted from another money-saving measure. Without local items on the ballot, the office sent the same guides to various ZIP codes to cut costs.

Guides sent to voters in Issaquah do contain information about the King County Library System levy lid lift.

For primary and general elections, the county publishes a voters’ pamphlet. The elections office automatically includes information about ballot items in primary and general election guides. But the rules for a special election — like the Feb. 9 election — differ. The elections office does not automatically produce a voters’ guide, and rules do not require governments to include information in the pamphlet.

For the information to be included in a special election pamphlet, the governing authority must pay the printing cost. The district saved about $7,000 with the decision to opt out, district Communications Director Sara Niegowski said.

She said the district communicates with parents, students and staffers in many other ways, like its Focus newsletter.

Organizers at Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the pro-levy campaign committee, said they have received e-mails and calls asking why the voter guides did not include information about Issaquah.

VIS Co-Chairwoman Kelly Munn said district officials have opted not to run information about measures in special-election voters’ pamphlets for several years.

“The real deal is we’re never in it,” she said. “We haven’t been in it for multiple elections, but as a person and a campaign manager I thought we were. I didn’t know.”

Munn said the decision not to include the information disappointed her.

“Some districts run stealth campaigns. We don’t. That’s why we’ve been working so hard to talk to the community,” she said. “To not put it in the voters’ pamphlet makes it look like we’re doing something or makes it look like we’re hiding something. We’re not.”

Issaquah City Councilwoman Maureen McCarry, a member of the district’s levy committee, said she was concerned by the lack of information in the voters’ guide.

“It’s very, very important to get voter turnout,” McCarry said.

Elections officials estimate 35 percent voter turnout in the all-mail election. Munn said she doubts the questions about the pamphlet will jeopardize the campaign.

“We will be fine, as evidenced when we did the phone banking,” she said. “It was unusually supportive.”

On the Web

Create a customized voter guide online at the King County Elections Web site,

www.kingcounty.gov/elections.aspx.

By Warren Kagarise and Chantelle Lusebrink
Issaquah Press reporters
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