King County Elections projects 52 percent turnout Nov. 8

November 1, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Despite inescapable advertisements for the forces behind and against a liquor initiative, and important local races on ballots throughout the state, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed predicts less than 50 percent turnout for the November election.

Reed forecast 47 percent statewide for the election. In King County, turnout is expected to crest 50 percent, although the low expectations reflect the lack of major races on the ballot. County Elections Director Sherril Huff predicts 52 percent turnout countywide — 53 percent in Seattle and 51 percent elsewhere.

The liquor measure, Initiative 1183, and Tim Eyman’s tolling measure, Initiative 1125, dominate most discussions about the Nov. 8 election.

Issaquah-based Costco is the major supporter behind I-1183, a push to remove the state from the liquor business. I-1125 aims to change rules to allow state lawmakers, rather than the appointed state Transportation Commission, to set tolls.

No statewide offices appear on the ballot in November.

“We certainly wish that half or more of our voters were casting ballots, since so many important local government offices and local issues are before the voters and we have significant statewide ballot measures to deal with,” Reed said in a statement issued Oct. 26.

King County Elections sent about 1.1 million ballots to all registered voters Oct. 19, although a glitch caused the elections office to send 11,000 ballots to Eastside voters later.

The elections office received about 68,000 completed ballots in the initial wave. Officials expect for 559,322 voters to return ballots in the election.

“I encourage everyone to vote and to remember that getting your ballot in early ensures plenty of time to correct any issues that may arise with your signature,” Huff said in a statement.

Mailed ballots require a first-class stamp and must be postmarked by Nov. 8. Or voters can drop ballots into a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Election Day. Issaquah City Hall and 10 other sites countywide host drop boxes.

The accessible voting center at King County Elections in Renton is open for voting, and additional locations in Seattle and Bellevue open Nov. 7 to allowed disabled voters to cast independent and private ballots.

Reed said 47 percent turnout is lower than recent off-year elections. In November 2009, turnout reached 50.9 percent.

Issaquah ballot drop box

King County Elections has opened ballot drop boxes at Issaquah City Hall and other sites for the Nov. 8 election.

The box at City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way, is due to remain open 24 hours a day until 8 p.m. Election Day.

The boxes allow voters to return ballots in person rather than by mail.

The elections office relied on historical use, population densities, planned future growth, proximity to transit services, access and safety data to determine the boxes’ locations.

The ballot also includes Initiative 1163 — a measure sponsored by the Service Employees International Union to address homecare workers’ certification and training.

State lawmakers also placed noncontroversial constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Senate Joint Resolution 8205 addresses a residency requirement for presidential voting outlined in the state constitution. The measure is meant to bring state law into synch with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Senate Joint Resolution 8206 calls for the state “rainy day” reserve fund to require contribution of a portion of “extraordinary” revenue in the future.

Reed said although lackluster turnout is unfortunate, the statewide picture often reflects the races on the ballot.

“But at the same time, we know that election turnout is largely driven by good races across the state and hot ballot propositions that really galvanize people to vote,” he said. “We are not sensing that degree of voter interest, and, indeed, many people are more engaged in the 2012 presidential race, the governor’s race and other open offices, and the fight for the Legislature and congressional districts that soon will have new boundaries.”

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