Issaquah residents defied trends in November election

December 14, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The ballot measure to create a state income tax failed just about everywhere outside of left-leaning Seattle and Vashon Island — except for a precinct nestled along Lake Sammamish.

Initiative 1098 received ironclad support — 80 percent — in the precinct. The catch: King County records indicate the precinct has 11 registered voters; 10 participated in the Nov. 2 election.

The information about the Lake Sammamish precinct comes from a detailed analysis of the precinct results in the recent election. (Issaquah is carved into 30 precincts.)

The neighborhood-level data — released a month after the election — illustrates how the Issaquah electorate bucked state trends on some issues and rejected incumbents even as the candidates cruised to re-election.

The dueling liquor initiatives on the ballot, 1100 and 1105, received uneven support from Issaquah voters.

Initiative 1100, a liquor privatization measure backed by Issaquah-based Costco — the largest employer in the city — received broad backing in the city even as the measure came up short statewide.

Initiative 1105 failed in every Issaquah precinct and only managed to garner 35 percent of the vote statewide.

The repeal of Legislature-imposed taxes on bottled water, candy and soda turned out to be a difficult sell in Issaquah. The measure, Initiative 1107, passed by a mere 30 votes in Issaquah as the measure received a resounding endorsement statewide.

City residents staked out more predictable positions on the measure to remake the state-run industrial insurance system. The measure, Initiative 1082, failed in Issaquah and across the state.

Initiative 1053 — a Tim Eyman-backed measure to require any state tax increase to receive a two-thirds majority in the Legislature — garnered support in Issaquah and elsewhere in the state.

The electorate in rural areas from Four Lakes to Maple Hills to Preston repudiated a measure to raise the county sales tax rate to preserve police service in unincorporated communities.

County Executive Dow Constantine proposed deep cuts to criminal justice services in September. Then, county leaders asked voters to consider the sales tax increase to limit King County Sheriff’s Office layoffs and service reductions.

Liberty High School is scheduled to lose a school resource officer as a result of the subsequent cuts, and a police storefront near Issaquah is due to close.

The measure, Proposition 1, also failed inside Issaquah city limits. Countywide, voters rejected the measure by a double-digit margin.

‘Every election has its own dynamic’

King County Elections Director Sherril Huff said the issues on the ballot ramped up participation in the all-mail election.

“Every election has its own dynamic, so we kind of talk about them like they’re living entities, but this one behaved more like a presidential-year election,” she said.

The rough-and-tumble contest between Dino Rossi and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray covered familiar terrain for Rossi, a Sammamish resident and former GOP gubernatorial candidate.

Republican Rossi, a former state senator, bested Democrat Murray 35,412 to 33,355 in the 5th Legislative District. Rossi represented the district in Olympia from 1997 until 2003.

Inside Issaquah city limits, Murray outpolled Rossi by 999 votes. Murray also pulled ahead in the 5th District neighborhoods inside city limits.

The regional races on the ballot produced some out-of-sync results.

In the King County District Court judicial races on the ballot, the Issaquah electorate supported Newcastle attorney Donna Tucker and hometown attorney John L. O’Brien. Tucker outpolled Redmond City Prosecutor Larry Mitchell to earn a spot on the bench, but O’Brien lost to appointed Judge Michael Finkle.

Issaquah supported Democrat Suzan DelBene in a failed 8th Congressional District race against GOP Congressman Dave Reichert. The results in Issaquah represented a reverse of the districtwide results: 53 percent for DelBene to 47 percent for Reichert.

The incumbent state legislators in the local delegation received tepid support in Issaquah.

State Reps. Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne received double-digit support across the 5th Legislative District, but both GOP candidates received less enthusiastic support in Issaquah. Only 103 votes separated Anderson and Democrat David Spring in city precincts.

State Rep. Marcie Maxwell lost the Issaquah neighborhoods in the 41st Legislative District. Issaquah residents chose Republican Peter Dunbar in the race against the Renton Democrat.

Republican Steve Litzow beat then-state Sen. Randy Gordon in Issaquah. Litzow eked out a 192-vote victory in the race to represent the 41st District in the upper chamber.

Only influential Democrat Judy Clibborn, the other 41st District representative, garnered a majority in the Issaquah neighborhoods.

The electorate in the Issaquah precincts inside the 48th Legislative District rejected incumbent state Rep. Ross Hunter and incumbent state Sen. Rodney Tom even as both Democrats cobbled together enough votes to earn re-election. The other incumbent Democrat in the district, state Rep. Deb Eddy, clinched the Issaquah neighborhoods in the race against a little-known opponent.

Ballot name game

If Jonathan Doe is registered to vote as such, but signs the ballot as John Doe, the elections office contacts the voter to resolve the signature issue.

Signatures on the ballot and in the registration information must match.

Though more voters resolved signature issues in the November election than in other contests, King County Elections Director Sherril Huff said the elections office needs to improve outreach to voters in order to reduce the number of signature issues.

If the postmark on a ballot is illegible, the signature date is used in order to process the ballot.

The elections office recorded signature issues on 21,560 ballots. Washington State Patrol-trained elections staffers contacted voters to resolve problems on just less than half of the signature-challenged ballots.

Huff said the office must also educate voters about election deadlines. Ballots must be postmarked or slipped into a ballot drop box on Election Day.

“The late ballot is one that is always really discouraging, but that’s another way that we feel as though we need to be more specific in our messaging,” Huff said.

The election included the largest number of ballots processed since King County started all-mail elections last year. Turnout reached 71.6 percent and beat the 68 percent pre-election estimate.

Huff is open to the idea of changing the deadline so ballots must be received by Election Day; elections directors in the 38 other counties remain split about the proposal.

“I think it could be a good thing and that, as with anything, it takes a real educational process for voters to adjust,” Huff said.

Nov. 2 election by the numbers

  • 1,069,791 registered voters in King County
  • 766,477 ballots counted
  • 786,461 ballots returned
  • 91,133 ballots returned to ballot drop boxes
  • 2,286 ballots cast on Accessible Voting Units
  • 604 provisional ballots issued
  • 0 discrepancies between ballots received and ballots tabulated
  • 2,480 visitors to Accessible Voting Centers
  • 21,278 calls to the Voter Hotline
  • 7,909 ballots returned as undeliverable to address on file
  • 21,560 signature-challenged ballots
  • 10,707 signature-challenged ballots rectified by voters
  • 6,581 ballots returned too late to be opened

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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