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Saturday, July 11, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: Plenty of reasons to vote, lots of help to decide how

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 31, 2015

The latest reports from the Washington Secretary of State’s Office put the ballot returns for the Nov. 3 election at 16 percent statewide as of Friday.

That’s pretty dismal, considering voters have a chance to put a figurative gun to the Legislature’s head to make it cough up a constitutional amendment on supermajorities for taxes, and an opportunity to protect pangolins, whatever they are.

One could argue that the first is unconstitutional blackmail and the second is a feel-good idea from animal huggers. But the only true way to express any of those sentiments is by voting.

Ballot returns aren’t much better in Spokane County and city, at just a shade above 20 percent, even though county voters have a chance to expand their board of commissioners by 66 percent, and city voters have to decide whether they give a mayor a second term for the first time since before Expo.

Ballots arrived in the mail about two weeks ago, so some voters may have to sort through a pile of junk mail to find theirs. Should be pretty easy to spot, in an oversized envelope that’s all official-looking.

“But I don’t know anything about these people or issues,” some voters may say. Oh, waaaah.

That may have been a valid excuse when everyone had to vote at the polls and you returned from three months in Mongolia the night before Election Day, only to be awakened by an urgent call to pull an 18-hour shift in a job critical to saving the nation. But if you’re reading this, you still have time to bone up on the candidates and issues and get the ballot to the post office before closing or drop box before 8 p.m. Tuesday. Here are some places to look for information:

The Spokesman-Review’s Election Center, which features background and weeks of stories on all the candidates and ballot measures. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but our reporters and Web folks have worked hard to compile all this stuff in a way that’s easy to search.

The Washington Secretary of State Voter Guide, for state ballot measures and legislative candidates, or the Spokane County Voter Guide, which has that plus information on local candidates and issues. These contain the same information in the guide all voters should have received in the mail two weeks ago. Check the stack of junk mail; it’s a thick booklet made of cheap newsprint.

With the exception of the easy-to-skip editorial endorsements that are included in the newspaper’s website, those don’t suggest how you should vote. If you’re looking for guidance in that direction, the Washington Policy Center analyzes some of the ballot issues, and even a casual reading will indicate which way it leans.

Liberal citizen action groups have the the Progressive Voter’s Guide, which covers the state initiatives and the advisory measures, and can be customized to bring up the Spokane County and city propositions, mayor and council races, and some school director positions.

Pastor Joe Fuiten, a prominent Seattle-area evangelical pastor and founding member of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, offers his “Pastor’s Picks” for Spokane-area races and the state and local ballot measures.

Also coming Tuesday

The Liquor and Cannabis Board apparently isn’t too concerned about the election results. It has a hearing Tuesday night on the new rules for medical marijuana businesses, which are coming under state control.

The board and its staff will be at the Spokane Convention Center, in room 401, answering questions about the new rules from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., then taking comments until about 8:30 p.m.

Watch out for scammers claiming to be IRS

The phone rang before dawn Wednesday, and the voice on the other end of the line said I was being given my last warning before the IRS filed legal action against me for unpaid taxes. Or something close to that. I wasn’t awake before the phone rang, but was pretty awake after.

The recorded voice said to call a number with an area code in the Bronx.

This was pretty suspicious – whatever one may think about the IRS, they are unlikely to be waking taxpayers from a sound sleep and threatening them from across the country with court action. I called the public information office at the IRS Seattle office instead.

David Tucker confirmed this is a scam going on all over the country with several variations. Some people are tricked into sending money or giving up bank information. The perpetrators are hard to catch because they move around and change numbers quickly. But in general, the agency has advice for anyone to help spot a scam.

First, the IRS doesn’t call to demand immediate repayment. It also doesn’t demand payment without letting you question or appeal the amount you owe. It doesn’t say you have to pay a certain way, like with a prepaid debit card, which is a favorite of the scammers. It doesn’t ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone. It doesn’t call to threaten to send the local police or other agencies to arrest you.

If you get such a call, hang up. They may call back. Hang up again.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online as a blog.

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