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Lovick beats Greene for sheriff, lower levy threshold approved
MARYSVILLE Voting by mail increased turnout by about 10 percent this fall, according to elections officials, who said a late deluge of ballots changed many races at the late minute during the Nov. 6 election.
Former Washington State trooper and state representative John Lovick won election to Snohomish County Sheriff, beating Tom Greene by 3,611 votes out of 145,224 cast. Greene is currently a high-ranking bureau chief under Sheriff Rick Bart, who was not able to run again due to term limits.#
A statewide ballot measure that would reduce the 60 percent supermajority for school district operating levies to a simple majority of voters faced long odds on election night but quickly took the lead among voters around the state and Snohomish County. House Joint Resolution 4204 is a constitutional amendment that would allow districts to pass maintenance and operation levies with 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote. Currently levies and construction bonds need at least 60 percent to pass; and education leaders said it wasnt fair that fire districts and other jurisdictions only need a simple majority for their levies.
We really felt that the school districts were in an unfair position, said Marysville School District finance director Jim Baker. Now we feel that we are on an equal footing with our neighbors. We still have to state our case.
The district had a pretty good record of passing operating levies, but many times it took two tries before the 60 percent threshold was met. Since by state law districts can only to the voters twice in one calendar year, it made things tough for financial planners, who operate on a state fiscal year of September through August. When a levy failed at the ballot box, typically early in February or March, planners would have to prepare layoff notices for teachers, who must know if they have a job for the next year by mid-May, also by state law.
That means planning for two academic years would be affected, as administrators tried to find everything they could possibly cut.
Youre really planning a year in advance, Baker explained. Im just absolutely thrilled.
Of the districts $105.8 million operating budget, 20 percent comes from local levy monies that help pay teachers, educational assistants and maintenance workers, as well as 100 percent of co-curricular activities such as sports, band and drill teams.
The state doesnt recognize any funding for after school activities, Baker lamented.
Each election also cost the district as much as $50,000, so that also helps, Baker added. Construction bonds, which pay for capital expenditures such as buildings and land, will still have to reach the 60 percent threshold in order to qualify. Bonds are usually for long terms, 20 to 30 years, whereas levies are three to four years. Marysvilles four-year levy, passed in February of 2006, will generate $72 million in property taxes over the course of its life, or about $16 million each year.
For Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Diepenbrock the higher turnout was just one surprise. Talking to auditors in other counties a common element around the state was the late surge of ballots that turned the tide of many issues. HJR 4202 was probably the largest switch, as it looked sure to fail on election night, garnering only 48 percent yes, 52 percent no, statewide, with similar numbers in Snohomish County. Those figures are now reversed.
What surprised Diepenbrock and her peers in other counties around the state was how the turnout grew quick during the last day of the election, when voters dumped their ballots in mailboxes. At first they were discussing possible turnout numbers in the low 20s: then the deluge hit.
It was just amazing, Diepenbrock said. It was very surprising how many people turned their ballots in on election day.
The last similar off-year election in 2003, where there were no presidential or gubernatorial races on the ballot to attract voters, was in 2003. That year 40.25 percent of eligible voters turned in a ballot. This year was 50.78, and counting, as Diepenbrock has until Nov. 22 to certify the election.
She credited the 10 percent increase to the ease of voters having a ballot sitting on their dining room table, being able to fill out the ballot and drop it in the mail. This helped increase voter participation.