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Mapping the Undervotes in 4th Senate race

A hand recount of 10 precincts in the state Senate race between Mike Padden and Jeff Baxter gets underway on Wednesday. Baxter, who is paying for the recount, won't say at this point why he's seeking the recount.

But there is one unusual thing about the race. Well, one unusual thing beyond the fact that the race had two Republicans and takes place in an odd-numbered year.

That is the level of “undervotes”, which is what elections officials call a ballot that has no candidate marked for that particular race. About one 4th District voter in five, or 7,900, didn't pick a candidate in the race.

By comparison, only 765 voters in all of Spokane County didn't pick a side on the Initiative 1183, which ended the state's monopoly on liquor sales. OK, so that may not be a fair comparison, because one is about something really important, like booze, and the other…well, you know.

One key factor may have been the lack of a Democratic candidate. Some Ds might've just been unable to mark their ballots for an R when they got to that race.

But the map above shows where undervotes were heaviest, and they aren't all in traditionally Democratic precincts. Nor do they coincide with the precincts that Baxter has asked to be recounted: 4016, 4025, 4026, 4200, 4404, 4406, 4408, 4418, 4426 and 4436.

For a more detailed (and in most cases easier to read) version of the above map, click on the document link below.


Documents:

Union files suit to block liquor initiative

OLYMPIA — A union that represents some of the workers who will lose their jobs at state liquor stores is suing to block Initiative 1183, which will begin dismantling the state control of liquor sales next year.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 sued today in King County, saying I-1183 violates a state requirement that an initiative have only one subject. The ballot measure had more than that, the union contends: privatizing the state liquor system, changing laws for selling and distributing wine, changing the ability of the Liquor Control Board to regulate alcohol advertising; and creating new franchise protections for spirits distributors.

The union contends the initiative's sponsor, Costco, focused on the issue of privatizing the state system with its record advertising campaign and avoided the other points, which are designed to benefit the retail giant.

Costco may have spent the big bucks to get the initiative passed, but state taxpayers will pay the cost of defending it.

State law says the Attorney General's office defends an initiative the voters approve. Dan Sytman, a spokesman for Attorney General Rob McKenna, said the office “will vigorously defend this initiative” like other state laws.

4th District will get new senator on Day 2 of session

Because of a quirk in state law, Spokane’s 4th Legislative District will have one senator for the first day of the upcoming special session, and a different senator for the rest of it.
Republican Mike Padden is the apparent winner of the race to fill a seat that came open earlier this year when veteran Sen. Bob McCaslin resigned for health reasons. Padden has a mathematically insurmountable lead over Jeff Baxter, a fellow Republican appointed to the seat earlier this year.
Padden, a former state representative and district judge, leads Baxter by 3,628 votes. The Spokane County elections office estimates there are fewer than 3,000 votes left to count in the 4th District.
  

Bell tolls for I-1125

OLYMPIA — Initiative 1125, which would have placed restrictions on how tolls can be levied and spent, is officially a loser.

Although the fate of the proposal seemed fairly likely when it ended Election Night behind, The Associated Press night called it for the No camp Wednesday evening after another day of ballot counting in some of the state's biggest counties.

Among them, a 71,000 vote margin on the side of the opposition in King County. Other counties voting No included Spokane, Snohomish, Thurston, Whitman, Garfield and Adams. Overall, I-1125 is down by about 40,000 votes out of nearly 1.3 million cast, or about 51.5 percent No and 48.5 percent Yes.

For a map of the county-by-county results on I-1125, click here.

Uh-oh. Some ballots might not have been mailed

OLYMPIA — Nearly 21,000 residents who either signed up to vote or updated their registration by using a state web site might not  have been mailed a ballot or may have been sent a ballot for their old address.

The Washington Secretary of State's office said late Monday that some voters who used the Department of Licensing's web site to register or change their address may not have received a ballot because the DoL computer wasn't sending that  information to the SecState computer.

Nearly 15,000 voters who tried to update their registration address when they updated their drivers license address filled out a form online and on time, but that information wasn't forwarded to the Secretary of State's office until last Friday. Some of those voters may have received ballots that were sent to a previous address and forwarded to them; others may not have received a ballot

Almost 6,000 who weren't registered may have filled out the “update your voter registration” form which doesn't have enough information for a new registration.

So what's a wouldbe voter to do? On Election Eve, the Secretary of State's office says if you believe you registered but haven't received a ballot — or if you changed your address but received a ballot for your old location — go to your county elections office or a Voter Service Center to fill out a registration form and cast a provisional ballot.

For information on the location of county elections offices and voter service centers, click here.

I-1183: More stores, less variety?

One angle of Initiative 1183 that has not been the subject of millions of dollars worth of commercials for and against is choice – as in will my choice of liquor be better or worse if the measure passes?

With campaigns arguing over whether people will or won’t drink significantly more liquor, get into significantly more traffic accidents and have significantly more problems with alcohol abuse, it’s probably not surprising that neither side has the campaign equivalent of “Dos Equis Guy” saying “I don’t always drink single malt 20-year-old scotch, but when I do, I like shopping at Washington State liquor stores.”

But selection is likely to change, at least initially…

One-third of Spokane ballots in

Spokane County Elections Office says it has received slighly more than 89,500 ballots, or 33.66 percent of all the ballots it sent out a couple weeks ago.

That's counting nearly 10,000 that came in today's mail or the pickup of weekend deposits in drop boxes.

For those who think a hot candidate race will definitely spur turnout, the numbers so far would suggest otherwise.

For example, the city of Spokane has a hotly contested mayor's race, a council president race and three contested city council races. It's turnout is 33.4 percent. The City of Spokane Valley has some contested council seats, turnout there is 33.24 percent.

The 4th Legislative District has one of the state's few off-year senate races. Turnout is 33.76 percent.

Town of Spangle, which has five council races on the ballot, but only one that's contested, turnout 45.8 percent. Orchard Prairie School District, three board seats on the ballot, none contested, 40.4 percent turnout.

Of course, one could note that Spangle and O.P. School District  registration numbers are so small that a handful of ballots boosts the turnout numbers. That's true, but the top part or the ballot is the same for everyone, with five statewide ballot measures and one county-wide proposal. And the process is the same for everyone: Fill out the ballot, put it in an envelope and mail it in or drop it off. For info on where to drop them, go here.

Where do I take my ballot?

You have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to mark your ballot, place it in the proper envelopes, seal and sign the envelopes and take it to a drop box or mail it. Be sure if you mail it on Tuesday, it will be postmarked that day, so taking it to the post office is a good idea, dropping it in the neighborhood mailbox in the afternoon, not so much.

If you're wondering where the drop boxes in Spokane County are, go inside te blog. If you live in another county, click here for a map that has phone numbers for all the county elections offices.

2011 elections: Who’s spending what

OLYMPIA – Led by a multi-million dollar battle for who controls liquor sales in Washington, initiatives and candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot have spent more than $18 million on trying to sway voters in the last three weeks.

This may come as no surprise to state residents who can’t turn on the television without seeing firefighters argue whether voters’ lives will be better or worse if state-run liquor stores go the way of the Model T. Other state initiative campaigns have their own TV messages, and campaigns big and small are filling mail boxes with slick mailers.

Campaigns were required this week to report all spending through Tuesday to the State Public Disclosure Commission. While more money will be spent by some campaigns that remain flush with cash, that won’t be reported until Dec. 12, when most bills are paid and many campaigns tally their final account.

Tuesday’s deadline covers some of the most intense spending of any campaign season…

Click to go inside to read the rest of this item.

State liquor monopoly: All in or all out?

OLYMPIA – It’s apparently all in, or all out, for Washington state’s involvement in the liquor business.

After studying two proposals to take over the state’s liquor distribution system, the Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both. Voters could still order that system sold, and remove the state’s involvement in wholesale and retail liquor sales, by passing Initiative 1183.

If that measure fails, the system stays as is, at least for a while.

In a letter Wednesday to the Liquor Control Board, OFM Director Marty Brown said the two proposals from private companies to take over the liquor warehousing system “do not represent ‘net positive benefit’ to the state or local governments.” Because of that, OFM officials say, state law doesn’t allow the board to accept either proposal….

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.

I-1125: Good democracy or bad economics?

For Spokane residents who haven’t dealt with a local toll way since the booths came down on the Maple Street Bridge in 1990, Initiative 1125 might seem like a ballot measure more important to the west side of the state.

Not so, say supporters and opponents of the initiative that occupies the top spot on the Nov. 8 ballot. They don’t agree, however, on the key reason it’s important to Eastern Washington…

Go inside the blog to find out why.

Catch the candidates: Valley races tonight

Got questions about a particular candidate or race in the Valley? Tonight's the night.

Central Valley High School Advanced Placement Government class is hosting a debate and forum for the 4th Legislative District Senate race, Valley City Council, Liberty Lake City Council Position 5 and Liberty Lake Mayor.

The students get to ask the questions, but don't let that deter you. In the years of watching a similar debate by the Spokane Youth Commission, it has become clear that Art Linkletter had it wrong. Kids don't say the darnedest things; they ask some of the toughest questions.

It starts at 5 p.m. at the CVHS theater.

Longtime Dem backs Condon, blasts Verner over Zehm

Former Democratic County Chairman and one-time congressional candidate Tom Keefe said today he is reaching outside his normal partisan boundaries to endorse David Condon in the mayor's race.

Officially, municipal races in Spokane are non-partisan. But sometimes the county organization or prominent party members endorse candidates who are politically well aligned. When that happens, it's sometimes considered news, but rarely is it NEWS.

But this is not one of those cases. Instead, it's an instance of a longtime Democrat endorsing a known Republican. Keefe is a former congressional aide whose service goes all the way back to Warren G. Magnuson; he ran for Congress against Republican Rep. George Nethercutt in 2000.

Condon is the former district manager to Nethercutt's successor, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and a GOP campaigner before becoming a candidate.

The reason for the cross-party endorsement? The Otto Zehm case…

Sunday Spin: Ads give up the right to remain silent

The campaigns for and against the get-the-state-out-of-the-booze-biz initiative seem in a competition for “first responders” willing to endorse their stance.

It started with the ad by Protect Our Communities, the official name of the No on I-1183 committee, which enlisted a county sheriff, a city police chief and a pair of firefighters to denounce the proposal…

Biz groups turn thumbs down on I-1125

OLYMPIA — Washington business groups, including Greater Spokane Inc., are taking turns dissing Initiative 1125, a proposal that would put restrictions on the way state sets and spends tolls on roads and bridges.

The Association of Washington Business recommended a vote against I-1125 last week at its annual “policy summit.”

GSI, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Greater Seattle Chamber, Renton Chamber, Washington Roundtable and state Realtors Association also urged a “no” vote, using words like irresponsible, dangerous and — horror of horrors! — politicizing.

AWB: No on tolling init; yes on liquor init

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business, which is occupies the role of the state's chamber of commerce, likes the ballot measure to turn the state's liquor business over to private business.

It doesn't like the ballot measure to restrict tolling policies on roads and bridges. Nor does it like a measure to require extra training and background checks for long-term care workers.

At its “policy summit” meeting in Suncadia — that's a lodge on the eastern slope of the Cascades near Cle Elum — the AWB decided to come out in favor of I-1183, which would end the state monopoly on wholesale and retail liquor operations. Better than previous attempts, the group says, by keeping sales out of convenience stores in cities and bringing in more revenue for the state.”

It doesn't like I-1163, which applies to health workers. Too expensive at a time when the state's budget is “$2 billion in the hole” and can least afford it.(Technically, the budget isn't $2 billion in the hole. The gap between projected revenue and scheduled expenses is $1.4 billion, or $1.27 billion if the state were to blow through its reserves in an effort to head off red ink. Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking the Legislature to come back starting Nov. 28 to cut $2 billion because by then the revenue projections may be worse and the state really needs to have reserves. But $2 billion probably is easier to remember.)

And it's against I-1125, which would restrict the use of tolls to the roads or bridges where they are levied, ban variable tolls for different times or days, and require tolls be set by the Legislature.  It would jeopardize some big projects and cause “more delays and traffic headaches for Washington drivers,” the group said.

AWB endorses Baxter

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business endorsed Jeff Baxter Friday in the race for the state Senate seat in Spokane Valley's 4th District.

The AWB is meeting this week at Suncadia lodge — a resort near Cle Elum — for its annual “policy summit”. Among the policies are endorsements…mostly for initiatives in this odd-year election.

But with a contest between two Republicans in the 4th, the group went with the incumbent Baxter, who was appointed to the seat this winter after Bob McCaslin retired for health reasons. He faces another Republican, former state Rep. and County District Judge Mike Padden in November because no Democrats got into the race.

The AWB said it was backing Baxter because of his business experience. “The private sector needs to lead our economic recovery efforts,” the group said.

Corker endorses Stuckart

While most of the political news is swirling around City Hall this morning with the press conference over the Otto Zehm case (read about that here), there was a development in the Council President race.

Councilman Steve Corker, who finished third in the primary for the job last month, announced he was endorsing former opponent Ben Stuckart for the job: “Ben represents a bright, new voice for Spokane.”

Stuckart thanked Corker for the endorsement and “for his many years of service to the City of Spokane.”

Corker also pointed out the key element of the primary results as the city looks ahead to the Nov. 8 election. Unlike the mayor's race, in which incumbent Mary Verner essentially lapped the field, no one got a majority in the council president's race. Dennis Hession, the former council president and mayor, finished on top, with 37 percent, but Stuckart got 30 percent and Corker 27 percent.

One other interesting stat: 2,175 voters “skipped” that race. That is, they marked their ballots in other contests, but not for council president. Had they voted for Corker, he would've finished second; had they voted for Stuckart, he would've been almost tied with Hession; had they voted for Hession, the race would now be seen as pretty much over.

For maps on how the candidates fared across the city's precincts, click here for Hession. here for Stuckart, and here for Corker. For a look at where the undecideds were, click here.

State GOP: Yes on I-1125

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Republican Party announced Wednesday it is endorsing Initiative 1125, the proposal to limit the use of money collected for road and bridge tolls.

The proposal is this year's offering by Tim Eyman and allies to rein in some aspect of state spending. The endorsement can't be considered that surprising, because it's hard to think of a time when the state GOP didn't back a measure by Eyman to limit state spending.

In other I-1125 news, the Washington Policy Center, a research group that supports “market solutions”, has issued a long report about the eight different questions the initative raises, and the way supporters and opponents answer them.

More booze outlets, but ‘not the Wild West’

OLYMPIA — Washington would go from having the second fewest liquor stores per capita to the fifth fewest if voters approver a ballot measure this fall, a new study concludes.

Initiative 1183 would likely result in a four-fold increase in the  number of retail liquor stores, the Office of Financial Management has said, and an increase of about 5 percent in total liquor sales. That would mean there'd be about one liquor store for every 4,709 persons, rather than one store for every 20,502 persons as it is now, the Washington Policy Center study concludes. That would be fewer stores per capita than any other western state.

“The bottom line is that the number of retail liquor stores would increase in Washington under I-1183 but this would not result in the state becoming the wild, wild west of liquor retail stores or sales,” the center's Jason Mercier writes.

I-1183 is this year's attempt to end the state's monopoly control of distribution, wholesale and retail liquor operations. It is backed by Costco, Trader Joe's and Safeway, Inc. Unlike I-1100, which voters rejected last year, I-1183 sets minimum size requirements for retail liquor stores that in many communities would confine sales to supermarkets, discount stores and other larger retail outlets and exclude mini-marts.

Washington is currently second only to Utah among 11 western states in terms of liquor stores per capita. Idaho, which also has state controled liquor stores, is fifth. It has 163 stores, but spread over its population that's one store for every 9,600 Idahoans.

OFM estimates the number of liquor stores in Washington would jump from the current level of 328 to 1,428 if I-1183 passes.. Sales would also go up slightly, based on the experience of Alberta, Canada, when that province ended its monopoly.

But Washington would have fewer stores per capita than Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado or Hawaii — other western states that don't have state-run liquor stores, the policy center concludes.

Taking sides, kicking in bucks on I-1183

OLYMPIA – This year’s ballot measure to get state government out of the liquor business is shaping up as another multi-million dollar fight that will pit one of Washington’s largest discount retailers against alcohol wholesalers.

Also taking sides are the state’s grocery stores, with some big national chains like Safeway backing the proposal and some regional chains like Rosauer’s working against it.

To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.

New vote totals. Same results

Spokane County Elections Office released the tallies from Thursday's ballot counts, which are pretty much right in line with everything we've seen so far.

Spokane Mayor's Race: Mary Verner 59 percent, David Condon 33 percent, everyone else, less than 8 percent.

Spokane Council President: Dennis Hession 37 percent, Ben Stuckart 30 percent, Steve Corker 27 percent

Spokane Council Position 1: Mike Fagan 29 percent, Donna McKereghan 24 percent, no one else close enough to change that.

Spokane Valley Council Position 6: Marilyn Cline 40 percent, Ben Wick 25.5 percent, John Baldwin and Lewis Higgins both out of it with around 16 percent.

Spokane School District Director Position 5: Deana Brower 38 percent, Sally Fullmer 30 percent, everyone else far out of the money.

Spokane City Prop 2 (the only one that was even close):, is still at 51 percent yes, 49 percent no.

There's an estimated 1,200 ballots remaining. Those and any others that straggle in by mail will be counted on Aug. 30/

Dying to see the full details? Click here to go inside the blog.

OFM looks at the initatives

OLYMPIA – Washington would collect more revenue if an initiative to privatize liquor sales passes, but could pay more for road projects if another ballot measure on toll roads succeeds.
That's the best estimate of the Office of Financial Management, which recently released its analyses of the three measures headed for the Nov. 8 ballot…

To read more about the analyses, and for links to the reports, click here to go inside the blog.

Unusual voting stat

A quick check of turnout through this morning at the Spokane County elections office reveals the following:

Turnout for the City of Spokane as a whole is 23 percent, which is nothing to write home about.

Turnout is lowest in the Council District 1, the Northeast District. It's at 19 percent, with slightly  more than half as many ballots turned in as the other two districts. Statistically, that's not a huge surprise, because District 1 usually  lags behind the other two council districts, and there are about 11,000 fewer registered voters in that district compared to the others.

What's unusual, however, is that District 1 has a council race on the ballot; it's the only district that has a council primary. So even with that incentive, turnout remains low.

There's still time to turn that around, though. Ballots can be marked, sealed and deposited in drop boxes until 8 p.m. Click here for a list of drop boxes throughout Spokane County.

Or you could put a stamp on the envelope and mail it, but take it to the post office to make sure it's postmarked today.

Sunday spin2: I am shocked — shocked! to find gambling going on

Reporters have been known to bet on almost anything, from when a jury will come back to which candidates will win the races they are covering.

It’s a tendency that even some professional gamblers find appalling. So when a Craigslist ad offered a cash prize for the best handicapper of Tuesday’s mayoral race, it caught some eyes in the newsroom.

Even more curious, the referenced website seemed to be that of Mike Noder. But a closer look showed that it wasn’t his mikeforspokane site, but a mocking site, mike4spokane, set up by someone he describes as a former friend turned critic.

To be fair, the mike4 site is close to being an equal opportunity annoyer of all five candidates. The photo of Mary Verner looks like it was shot by the photographer who did Michelle Bachmann for Newsweek, and the shot of David Condon makes his head seem as round as a balloon. The other three candidate’s photos are so out of focus as to be almost unrecognizable.

Only 13 people found their way to the site and left a prediction before the contest closed. The average: Condon 40 percent; Verner 38 percent; Barbara Lampert 9 percent; Noder 7.5 percent and Robert Kroboth 3 percent. Actual results may vary.

It’s no longer just Costco money on I-1183

OLYMPIA — We may have to stop calling Initiative 1183, the ballot measure that would get the state out of the wholesale land retail liquor business, “The Costco Initiative.”

The proposal now has another source of funding: Trader Joe's.

Costco is by far and away the biggest source of cash for I-1183, and this will be the discount giant's second attempt to change state liquor laws in a way that would allow it to sell and possibly distribute liquor in its stores.

Costco has put roughly $1,082637.40 in cash into the campaign. And that doesn't count more than $1.2 million it chalked up through in-kind contributions for things like employees who were paid for their time manning the signature gathering tables in the stores or the national petition gathering firm it hired on the way to setting a record for the fastest qualifying signature campaign in state historyo.

Late last month, Trader Joe's tossed $50,000 into the pot. So as of July 26, it became the 98 percent Costco initiative. The date May 26 on the PDC form, is wrong, but of course we all figured that because no one would let a check for 50K sit around for two months before taking it to the bank. 

So what does this mean? Maybe if I-1183 passes, Washington residents won't have to pay a fee and join Costco to get a really good deal on booze.

City Council may add ballot measures against Bill of Rights

The Spokane City Council will consider next week adding a pair of ballot measures to the Nov. 8 ballot to ask voters whether they want the city to cut programs or “pursue additional funding sources” if the Community Bill of Rights passes.

For those not fluent in the language of government-speak, pursue additional funding sources is a polite way of saying “raise taxes.”*

Similar provisions were added to the 2009 ballot when the previous incarnation of the Community Bill of Rights was before the voters. So expect a similar explanation from supporters on the council that they just need some advice from voters on how to pay for the CBR, should the voters pass it so late in the year, what with all the preparations underway at the time for the 2012 city budget.

Expect, too, some vocal protests from Envision Spokane, the sponsors of the CBR. In 2009, they prepared a legal brief against the add-on  ballot measures, saying it was an attempt to prejudice voters against the one CBR.  But they never filed it.  Kai Huschke of Envision Spokane said there's no decision yet on whether to file the challenge this time if the council repeats the 2009 maneuver.

So it could be deja vu all over again, on multiple levels, including the short  notice of the added ballot propositions, which weren't mentioned by any councilmembers when they voted  unanimously to put the Community Bill of Rights on the ballot last Monday. (OK, so they didn't have a choice in the matter because Envision Spokane followed the rules and gathered the required signatures and submitted their petiions. Not putting it on the ballot, as some people suggested, would have left the council open to a legal challenge.)

But even though there was some minimal grousing about the CBR, council members didn't suggest during that meeting they thought voters the “advisory measures” should also return to the ballot.

The council will have to decide next Monday on whether to lard the ballot with the two extra propositions. The deadline for adding something like that to the ballot is a April 16.

 

* What? You thought it meant take turns on a street corner with a tin cup and accordion or drill for oil in Riverfront Park?

Sunday Spin: Get ready for Round 2 on Bill of Rights

Conspicuous by their absence last Monday were leaders of Greater Spokane Inc., when the City Council voted to place the latest version of a Community Bill of Rights before voters.
That shouldn’t be taken as a sign the business community is okey-dokey with the ballot measure.
The council had no choice in the matter, as some members made clear. Envision Spokane gathered the necessary signatures to put a charter change on the ballot, and that, pretty much, was that.
Two years ago, there was a bit more in play. . .

Lampert drills down on the varmint issue

Some candidates, particularly novices, have an annoying habit of announcing a vague stand for or against something when they kick off their campaign, and never refining, clarifying or elucidating it later.
Not so with City Council Candidate Barbara Lampert. She came out four-square against varmints when she began her campaign. Her latest campaign literature, a 3.5 inch by 8.5 inch door insert, brings the issue into sharp focus. Eliminate skunks. Lessen the squirrel population. Eradicate crows. Decrease marmots.
It is possible that Lampert, a perennial candidate who has run for something or another for the last 15 years, knows not to make a rookie mistake.
It’s unlikely, however, she’ll get much support from those who like their furry or feathery friends. Sure, skunks can be smelly, squirrels annoying and crows obnoxious. But marmots? They’re cute.
  

Third state initiative makes Nov. 8 ballot

The third and final initiative in the blocks for the Nov. 8 election cleared the signature stage Monday night.

Initiative 1163, which requires training and background checks for home health care workers, turned in some 340,000 signatures, which was a cushion of almost 100,000 over the required amount. It had a better than average invalidation rate on signatures in the spot checks, the Secretary of State's office reported.

So state wide voters have a chance to vote on privatized liquor, road tolls, and home health care requirements.

Spokane city voters will also have a Community Bill of Rights charter amendment on that ballot. The Spokane City Council moved that measure to the ballot at its Monday night session. You can read this morning's story on that decision here.