Turnout solid despite discontent
June 9, 2008 · Updated 5:20 PM
High turnout with only a handful of unhappy voters has Kitsap elections officials breathing a sigh of relief after Tuesdays primary.
It went remarkably well, said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. We anticipated a great many people being dissatisfied with the new primary, and that there would be a drop-off in people voting.
While some remained to be counted Friday, more than 50 percent of registered county voters cast a ballot in the primary, barreling over predictions that turnout likely wouldnt crack the 40th percentile.
The new primary required voters to declare a party choice before voting only in that partys races. About 8 percent of Kitsap voters skipped this portion, voting exclusively in the nonpartisan races.
The Democratic Partys portion drew the most partisan voters, with 62 percent of participants alligning themselves with that party. Republicans drew 37 percent, while just over 1 percent went to the Libertarians.
Most county residents voted by mail; as of Friday afternoon, elections officials had gathered almost 60,000 mail-in ballots with more on the way. About 8,500 chose to vote at the polls.
While the new primary drew in more voters than expected, almost 80 percent of those polled said they disliked the system, Flynn said.
Some disaffected voters made their opinions known in creative ways. Elections officials found angry rants inscribed in the margins of some ballots.
Some people wrote on their ballots that the new primary was unconstitutional or that they didnt like having their choices taken away, Flynn said.
Others conveyed a more simple message by crossing out or scribbling on the ballots partisan portion. One ballot was returned with an unopened condom, while another arrived cut into shreds.
But almost 90 percent said they understood the systems restrictions on partisan voting, and found the ballot easy to use. This was a big relief for Flynn, with the county auditors office sinking $600,000 into the primary.
The countys consolidated ballot, which contains all races on one sheet of paper, performed better than methods used in some other counties. Thurston Countys four-ballot system confused many voters, with more than 10 percent submitting more ballots than necessary.
I was pleased with our results, Flynn said. The consolidated ballots were easy for voters to handle and didnt require a lot of extra administrative time.
Flynn isnt planning to reuse the successful consolidated ballot system just yet.
The new primary is under fire by Secretary of State Sam Reed, while backers of Initiative 872 want to see the primary drop its partisan restrictions and give voters back the freedom to cross party lines. This Washington State Grange-backed initiative will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.
I cant say well use this ballot again, Flynn said. We may never see this primary again.
Kitsap voters bucked state trends in some cases, casting votes for a few underdogs.
While Washington voters chose former insurance commissioner Deborah Senn to represent the Democrats in the Nov. 2 election for state attorney general, Kitsap County preferred former Seattle city attorney Mark Sidran by four percentage points.
In the nonpartisan race to oversee Washingtons 296 public school districts, the county took a clear stand for incumbent Terry Bergeson. The state superintendent of public instruction was trailing challenger Judith Billings by one percentage point statewide but had earned a six-point lead in Kitsap County.
In other contested races affecting Bainbridge Island, Republican Scott Henden will face incumbent Democrat Chris Endresen for the Bainbridge/North Kitsap seat on the Kitsap County Commission. The Kingston electrician earned his second nomination to run against Endresen, defeating Suquamish attorney Matthew Cleverley with more than 70 percent of the GOP vote.
Bremerton realtor Frank Mahaffay defeated Kingston business design specialist Paulette DeGard as the Republican nominee for the 23rd Districts Position 1 state House seat. Mahaffay, who earned his partys nomination by a 21 point margin, will now face the lone Democratic nominee Sherry Appleton.
In the islands only contested race for a precinct committee officer, Democrats selected Barry Peters over Dan Gallagher as the Tolo neighborhoods party representative.