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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: Ballot returns lag behind 2014 primaries

Spokane County election workers LuAnn Bechtel and John Miffin inspect mailed ballots for crossouts and write-ins, November 7, 2007 at the elections office in Spokane, Washington. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane County election workers LuAnn Bechtel and John Miffin inspect mailed ballots for crossouts and write-ins, November 7, 2007 at the elections office in Spokane, Washington. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

For all the talk about a blue wave of voters that might wash over the 2018 elections, it seems appropriate to mention that turnout in this year’s primary is lagging behind where it was in 2014, the last midterm.

Spokane County ballot return statistics as of Friday (they don’t report numbers over the weekend) show 12.15 percent of ballots have come back to the elections office. For the same time in 2014 – two Fridays before the Election Day deadline, the office had 14.35 percent of the ballots back.

Perhaps that’s because there are more registered voters now, you might harumph. Turnout is achieved by dividing the number of ballots by the number of registered voters, and as we’ve seen with most efforts to increase registration, the turnout often goes down because the denominator goes up.

But in real numbers, turnout is also down by more than 2,400 ballots, from 40,495 ballots in 2014 to 38,062. This despite the free postage provided voters so they don’t need a stamp to mail their ballots in.

And the 2014 primary didn’t have a 29-candidate scrum for the U.S. Senate, or what may be the most competitive U.S. House race in Eastern Washington in decades.

This could all change in the next nine days, and primaries are not always predictive of general elections. But if you’re a campaign that’s counting on a Get-Out-The-Vote strategy, you may want to revisit your tactics.

Registration deadline near

Speaking of the primary, Monday is the last day for Washington residents who are citizens to register to vote if they haven’t yet.

To do so, you’ll have to go the the Elections Office in person, and bring some identification and proof of residence.

But wait, you might say. Didn’t my esteemed Washington legislators change the law so I can register right up to 8 p.m. on Election Day? Yes, they did. But that law doesn’t take effect until next year, so for 2018, you must be registered by Monday or wait to exercise your right to vote in the November general election.

Least surprising news

of the week

It’s a tie that goes to a pair of announcements of groups letting us know how they feel about upcoming political issues.

The Association of Washington Business says it will oppose Initiative 1631, the proposed carbon fee that would raise money for programs that would cut back on pollution. Considering AWB has opposed previous carbon tax plans, this was not a shocker.

Neither was the announcement that the League of Conservation Voters is endorsing Sen. Maria Cantwell’s re-election bid. The state’s junior senator generally likes the things the league likes, such as supporting parks and fighting climate change, and doesn’t like the things it doesn’t like, such as proposals to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Most disturbing news

of the week

The number of robocalls – those annoying taped phone messages that try to do or buy something, or to vote for or against someone – rose in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

This according to a report in Stateline, a news service for the Pew Charitable Trusts. Citing the YouMail Robocall Index the number of robocalls went from 2.8 billion in January to 4.1 billion in June.

YouMail calculates 8.4 million Robocalls were made to the 509 area code in June alone. That’s pretty bad, but over in the 360 area code it was 10.2 million. Most of those were made to my house at dinner time.

Nuclear-free Spokane

up for discussion

The City Council will vote Monday on a proposed resolution to make the city a nuclear-free zone.

Wait, what? you may ask. Do we have ICBMs – inter-county ballistic missiles – to protect against an attack from Coeur d’Alene?

No. If anything, the Spokane area is less nuclear-laden than it was during the Cold War, when bombers armed with hydrogen bombs and cruise missiles waited on the alert pads at Fairchild Air Force Base and the Pentagon was talking about routing the MX missile through here. Washington, which once had all three legs of the triad, now is down to one leg: the missiles in the Trident submarines that come and go from Bangor.

But the resolution introduced by Councilwoman Kate Burke contends nuclear weapons and parts still come through the city on Interstate 90, and there are concerns about the production, cleanup and testing of weapons. It says the nation should make “elimination of nuclear weapons a central component of our national security policy.” It also sets aside Aug. 6 as Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembrance Day, to mark the dropping of the atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

It’s on the evening agenda with a pair of proposals for bond issues that could go on the November ballot.

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