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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Low voter turnout expected for today’s election

Records are being set for spending on a statewide initiative in Washington, but officials don’t expect a record number of ballots to be cast in the election that closes tonight.

State election officials are projecting about half of all voters will return ballots by 8 p.m. today. In Spokane County, where about a fourth of all ballots had been returned as of Monday afternoon, Auditor Vicky Dalton is hoping to get above 40 percent.

That’s a bit of a comedown after last year’s record 80.47 percent of ballots cast, but it’s not likely to be a record low. The worst turnout for a general election in modern times in Spokane County was 30 percent in 1971.

“There’s nothing on the ballot that’s really catching people’s attention,” Dalton said. “People are unhappy with government in general and some feel they don’t have enough information on some of the issues.”

There are seven statewide ballot measures, including an initiative to require labels on many foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. A handful of opponents, primarily agrichemical companies and major food producers, have raised more than $33 million to fight Initiative 522. Supporters, aided by some organic food and natural supplement companies, have raised more than $9 million to get it on the ballot and try to persuade people to vote for it.

The ballot also contains I-517, often called the initiative on initiatives because it would revise laws for where signatures can be collected on ballot measures and how long the gathering process can last. The front of the ballot also has five nonbinding advisory votes on tax laws the Legislature passed earlier this year.

Cities and towns, along with school, fire and water districts, have regularly scheduled elections for councils and boards. Northeast Washington’s 7th Legislative District has a special election to fill an empty state Senate seat through next year. Spokane County voters are being asked to approve a property tax levy to purchase property near Fairchild Air Force Base

Ballots were mailed to every registered voter in Washington about three weeks ago. Those ballots must be marked and placed in the proper return envelopes, which must be signed and either postmarked by today or deposited in a drop box by 8 p.m. tonight. Voters who have lost or damaged their ballots can get a replacement at a voter service center.

Idaho voters also have a civic duty to perform, but it will require a trip to the polls in cities holding mayoral or council elections. There are no statewide issues on the ballot. In Idaho, it is possible for residents who are eligible to vote but haven’t yet registered to sign up at the poll site on Election Day.