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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Election Day is here. Here’s what’s at stake

It’s Election Day. Voters can drop their ballots in a ballot box or mail them free of charge.  (Libby Kamrowski)
It’s Election Day. Voters can drop their ballots in a ballot box or mail them free of charge. (Libby Kamrowski)

It’s your last chance to turn in your ballot for the 2021 General Election.

On this Election Day, voters get a say in a number of local races, including for positions on town and city councils, school boards, water districts and others.

In Spokane, that means shaping the Spokane City Council, which will gain two new members as it looks to address the city’s dual housing and homelessness crises, works to address climate change and distributes $81 million in American Rescue Plan funds.

In Spokane Valley, voters will be deciding if they want to keep a centrist City Council or push their government back to the right.

As of Monday, almost 24% of Spokane County voters had returned their ballot. Turnout is already higher than it was in 2017, which had about 18% of ballots in the county returned at this point.

Statewide, just under 22% of ballots had been returned.

Voters have until 8 p.m. to return their ballot in person or to an official drop box. A mailed ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 2, so voters who are dropping ballots in a mail box are encouraged to check its pickup time.

Voters who are not registered yet can register in person at their county elections office until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The election features an open seat in Spokane City Council’s District 1, which encompasses northeast Spokane, and District 3, which covers Northwest Spokane.

In both cases the incumbent is not on the ballot and neither candidate has ever held elected office.

Northwest candidate Zack Zappone has positioned himself as a progressive who will prioritize working and middle class families, while opponent Mike Lish has touted his experience operating a small business, D. Lish’s Hamburgers.

In the northeast, Jonathan Bingle has pledged to support the police department and treat homelessness as a “human” issue, not a housing issue. His opponent, Naghmana Sherazi, has highlighted her firsthand knowledge of the housing market as a tenant, calling for tenant protections and creative solutions to the city’s housing shortage.

In Spokane Valley, the City Council currently has a centrist majority. It’s not uncommon to see 4-3 council votes with Ben Wick, Brandi Peetz, Tim Hattenburg and Linda Thompson voting together, leaving Rod Higgins, Arne Woodard and Pam Haley in the minority.

Four councilmembers – Wick, Thompson, Haley and Higgins – are up for election Tuesday, but the Thompson and Higgins races are probably the ones that could tip the balance of power on City Council. If voters want to maintain a centrist council they’ll probably need either a Thompson win or a Higgins loss.

Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 2008 , is facing Laura Padden, wife of Republican state Sen. Mike Padden. Padden beat Thompson in the primary by 5 percentage points, but Thompson has reason to feel hopeful. She’s been endorsed by Adam “Smash” Smith, who got 15% of the vote. Padden might pick up the 7% of voters who opted for Renault Patrick Evans during the primary.

All signs point to Thompson-Padden being a nailbiter.

Higgins only has one opponent: James “JJ” Johnson, who describes himself as “floating left and right of dead center.” Higgins and Johnson didn’t appear on the primary ballot because they were the only two candidates, so it’s unclear which way voters might be leaning.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Monday more people were using the U.S. Postal Service to return their ballots than last year. Dalton said that’s likely because so many people were worried about using the Postal Service last year, amid concerns that delays could lead to ballots being returned late.

This year, it’s back to normal, she said. She expects overall turnout in the county to be 35% to 40%. Total turnout in 2017 was just over 34% .

As of Monday, 500 ballots in Spokane County had been challenged. Most of them had signatures that didn’t match, and some didn’t have a signature at all, Dalton said.

For more information about who is on your ballot, visit VoteWA.gov for an online voters guide, and read The Spokesman-Review’s election coverage online at www.spokesman.com/elections.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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