Levy voter turnout exceeds 40 percent

March 4, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

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The election to determine the financial future of the Issaquah School District attracted more than 22,000 voters, final King County Elections results released last week show.

Turnout reached 40 percent — or 22,629 ballots cast — as voters approved three levies meant to supplement district coffers with more than $214 million by 2014. The levy package included $172.5 million for maintenance and operations, $1.7 million for transportation and $38.4 million for technology and critical repairs.Taxpayers will pay $4.81 for every $1,000 of assessed property for the levies and the remainder of the 2006 bond.

Results show the wide margins by which voters approved the measures: 66 percent for the maintenance and operations levy, 64 percent for the transportation item and 66 percent for the technology and repairs levy.

The district stretches from Sammamish to Newcastle; the elections office mailed 56,313 ballots to district voters. Districtwide turnout beat forecasts offered by officials before the Feb. 9 deadline for the all-mail election.

Countywide turnout also exceeded pre-election estimates. The elections office predicted 35 percent turnout. Instead, 37 percent — or 395,624 voters — returned ballots to the elections office by the deadline.

Officials certified the election Feb. 24. The elections office processed more than 400,000 ballots — the largest mail ballot spring election in terms of volume — and recorded no discrepancies between the number of ballots received and the number tallied. King County switched to all-mail elections a year ago.

Elections officials posted results for more than 290,000 ballots Feb. 9 — the highest number of mail ballots posted on election night to date. In the November general election, the office tabulated 254,000 mail ballots, compared to 117,000 in the 2008 presidential contest.

“We’re very pleased with our new technology, the track record we’ve been building, and the accolades from staff and voters alike about our vote by mail process,” King County Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a Feb. 24 statement. “Our system is streamlined, secure and accurate. On top of that, it’s available for voters, parties, campaigns and the media to observe and witness.”

Newcastle and King County residents also approved additional dollars for the King County Library System.

The library measure passed by a more narrow margin: 52 percent — or 124,429 people — agreed to restore the property tax rate to 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed value next year.

A homeowner with a $400,000 home will pay $32 more because of the measure. The increase will be limited to 2011.

The levy lid lift differs from a capital bond measure; money raised through a bond is funneled to facilities and infrastructure.

Proponents said the measure should prevent further cuts. Officials trimmed $1.9 million from the system last year, cutting dollars for new books and other materials, technology upgrades and building maintenance at the third-busiest library system in the nation.

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