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City street bond issue advances with latest absentee ballot count

The city of Spokane’s street bond issue moved closer to passage Thursday as the county tabulated about 21,000 absentee ballots.

Two other races tightened slightly, with Democrat Laurie Dolan inching closer to Republican Brad Benson for the 6th Legislative District Senate seat and Democrat Bill Burke gaining slightly on Republican Mark Richard for a Spokane County Commission position.

Republican John Serben’s lead over Democrat Don Barlow for a 6th District House seat grew a bit bigger.

In each case, the candidates are separated by less than 2 percent of the vote, with tens of thousands of absentee ballots still to count.

A computer analysis of the ballot tabulations shows that voters who mailed in their ballots early for Tuesday’s election were more likely to vote for Democrats in many key races, while those who went to the polls or mailed ballots close to Election Day trended Republican.

The trends differ from race to race, and it’s not clear whether they reflect different efforts by the parties to organize their voters, or if events in the days leading up to the election changed some voters’ minds.

For example, Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, led Republican George Nethercutt by about 2,000 votes, or about 52 percent to 48 percent, in Spokane County in the 61,000 absentee ballots counted on Election Day. Those are ballots that came back to the elections office from mid-October, when mail ballots were first issued, until late last week.

In votes cast at the polls on Election Day, Nethercutt topped Murray by about 5,000 votes out of 76,000 cast, or by about 54 percent to 46 percent. In the absentee ballots counted Thursday, Nethercutt’s lead was less, about 800 votes out of the 21,000 cast, or about 52 percent.

Similar shifts were seen in the race for president and governor, and in most legislative and county races.

That trend generally favors Republicans who lead in Spokane’s tight races, particularly Richard and Serben, who both got the majority of the votes counted in their races Thursday. Dolan beat Benson, but only by 38 votes, in the ballots cast Thursday, but still faces a gap of about 1,000 votes.

In the street bond issue, voters who went to the polls were slightly more likely to support the property tax increase than voters who mailed in their ballots.

But in both instances, more than 60 percent of the voters approved the bond issue, and the ballot measure is now close to a 61 percent approval level.

County elections officials plan to count another batch of absentee ballots today.