November 13, 2012

Change ballot deadline

As the 2012 election winds down, there is a chorus calling for mail-in ballots to be due on Election Day, not sent on Election Day. The chorus is right.

Ballots are already sent with ample time for voters to return them by the election. Procrastinators will simply need to get their votes in the mail a couple of days earlier, or take them to the nearest ballot drop box.

The water-torture drip of results in the week or more after the election needlessly prolongs the results. Florida actually finished counting its ballots before Washington state. We can do better.

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Off the Press

November 13, 2012

Campaign tests candidates’ — and voters’ — mettle

Warren Kagarise
Press reporter

Throughout campaign season, as the insults zinged back and forth across screens and in mailboxes, I often hoped for Election Day to arrive as soon as possible.

But now, as the election recedes into memory I feel wistful, maybe even a little nostalgic.

Though the process often degraded the candidates and, in the process, voters, I found the contenders dedicated and focused on the task at hand.

Candidates knock on thousands of doors in the run-up to Election Day, a process referred to in candidate-speak as doorbelling. The exercise tests the candidates’ mettle and offers voters a grassroots introduction to the person behind the political sign.

Besides the usual pitfalls — unfriendly dogs, voters pretending not to be home — everybody on the doorbelling circuit, state Sen. Steve Litzow told me in a pre-election interview, encountered at least one naked voter at the door.

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Deadline looms to remove roadside political signs

November 12, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. Nov. 12, 2012

Election Day is done, but political signs continue to linger along roadsides and in yards.

The state Department of Transportation reminds landowners to remove the signs from private property along state highways.

State law allows political signs on property visible from state highways, but the signs must come down 10 days after the general election, and the 10-day period ends Friday.

Otherwise, failure to remove the political signs after being notified by the Department of Transportation can result in a misdemeanor.

Pat O’Leary, Department of Transportation highway advertising program manager, said illegal signs do not pop up often and landowners often do a good job on removal after Election Day.

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Brad Toft concedes state Senate race to Mark Mullet

November 9, 2012

NEW — 10:05 a.m. Nov. 9, 2012

Less than 24 hours after urging supporters to wait for more election results, Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft conceded a hard-fought state Senate race to Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet early Friday.

Toft could not overcome the lead Mullet, a Democrat, posted on election night, and then continued to maintain as subsequent results arrived. In the most recent results released Thursday by King County Elections, Toft trailed Mullet, 54 percent to 46 percent, out of 50,681 ballots tallied.

“There’s a disappointment in what happened, but the cause goes on,” Toft said in a message to campaign supporters Friday.

Mullet declared victory after the initial election results landed Tuesday, and then disputed Toft’s assertions about a possible turnaround in subsequent days.

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King County delays election results due to equipment problem

November 7, 2012

NEW — 6 p.m. Nov. 7, 2012

King County Elections planned to release results at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, but officials delayed the report until 6:30 p.m. due to a problem with the ballot-scanning system.

Officials attributed the problem to the ballot-scanning system the record volume of ballots handled by the elections office. The equipment vendor is on site at the elections headquarters in Renton, and resolved the problem by 6 p.m., officials said in a statement.

The elections office plans to include about 50,000 ballots in the next tally.

King County is the largest county in the United States to conduct all-mail elections.

Ballots continue to arrive at the elections office. Officials received about 985,000 ballots so far — or 84 percent turnout in the general election to date.

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King County prepares to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as supporters claim victory

November 7, 2012

NEW — 3:30 p.m. Nov. 7, 2012

King County Executive Dow Constantine is prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as Referendum 74 supporters claimed victory in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

Dow Constantine

But not so fast, came the response from opponents. R-74 challengers said uncounted ballots from outside left-leaning King County could spell defeat for the measure.

In the initial results released Tuesday, R-74 led in the tally  52 percent to 48 percent, among more than 1.9 million ballots statewide. The measure relied on deep support in King County; R-74 garnered support from 65 percent of local voters.

Constantine, a longtime same-sex marriage supporter, hailed the milestone hours after the organization behind the campaign to approve R-74, Washington United for Marriage, claimed victory.

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Ex-Issaquah legislator is locked in tight race for secretary of state

November 7, 2012

NEW — 11:55 a.m. Nov. 7, 2012

Democrat Kathleen Drew, a former Issaquah state senator, is locked in a close race for secretary of state against Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, a Republican.

The contest to choose a successor to Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed is split 50.39 percent for Wyman against 49.61 percent for Drew in the initial results released Tuesday.

The secretary of state serves as the top elections official in Washington. The office also handles registrations for corporations and charities.

Reed plans to retire after a dozen years in the post. In 2004, he led the office through the contest between Gregoire and Dino Rossi — the closest gubernatorial race in U.S. history.

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King County voters return ballots, shatter records

November 6, 2012

Cathy Gulezian, of Maple Valley (left), watches sons Brady, 2, and Dylan, 4, place ballots for her and husband Ken in a ballot drop box attended by King County Elections workers Michele Phelps and Jon Gentry at Issaquah City Hall. By Greg Farrar

NEW — 7 p.m. Nov. 6, 2012

The ballot drop box outside Issaquah City Hall transformed into a nucleus of activity as Election Day stretched into night, and voters raced to deposit ballots before the 8 p.m. deadline.

King County Elections staffers, dressed in aprons the same shade as traffic cones, directed voters to the secure box. The elections office opened the box last month and, as the ballot deadline approached and after post offices closed, more and more ballot-toting voters arrived.

“Unlike during tax season, the post office does not stay open longer hours for voting,” said Lynne Miller, a King County Elections spokeswoman.

Staffers plan to use atomic clocks to determine the precise 8 p.m. deadline at ballot drop box sites countywide. If a line forms for a drop box, voters in line at 8 p.m., can still submit ballots.

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Candidates’ signs raise stakes, then linger as litter

November 6, 2012

A cluster of political signs on the road shoulder vie for motorists’ attention Nov. 1 at the corner of Northwest Gilman Boulevard and state Route 900. By Greg Farrar

The emerald strip in the center of Northwest Gilman Boulevard is prime real estate for political signs, a landscaped median exposed to thousands of vehicles each day.

Unfortunately for candidates, city code prohibits campaign operatives from turning the median — and others around Issaquah — into a politician’s paradise in the run-up to Election Day.

Some passers-by regard political signs as litter, just another piece of detritus from a long and acrimonious campaign season. Others see the placards as grassroots organizing at the actual grassroots, a First Amendment affirmation.

Michele Forkner, code compliance officer for the city, treats the signs as a necessary but messy task.

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Off the Press

November 6, 2012

Political ads turn downright scary

Kathleen R. Merrill
Press managing editor

Last week, there was one day that I was literally sick to my stomach. No, not because I ate too much Halloween candy. Instead, it was because of all of the hate and ugliness in political ads.

Oh yeah. You know the ones I’m talking about:

“If he’s elected, my opponent will make sure you lose your house, and your kids go hungry and your dog dies.”

“My opponent is not who he says he is. He’s a big, fat liar.”

“My opponent has an autographed picture of Osama bin Laden on his desk.”

“My opponent has not been honest with the American people.”

“My opponent eats puppies for breakfast and drowns kittens on weekends.”

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