The initial results on election night didn’t look good for Washington state’s GMO-labeling initiative, I-522 — it trailed 46% to 54%, and only led in a few counties. After a lot more ballots were tallied on Wednesday, the outlook wasn’t much better.
But, despite those gloomy numbers, the Yes on 522 campaign released a hopeful statement late on Wednesday:
SEATTLE— There are too many votes that have not been counted for this race to be called. Hundreds of thousands of votes have yet to be counted. Additionally, Washington Secretary of State is currently reporting that over 300,000 votes still have to be counted. KOMO News 4 in Seattle even noted that there were more votes to be counted and results are not yet final.
“This race is not over yet,” said Delana Jones, Campaign Manager for Yes on 522. “Due to Washington State’s vote-by-mail system, there are hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted. Please stay tuned. More results will be available after 6pm Pacific.”
At 8:30 pm Wednesday, the updated totals still came in 54% to 46% against the initiative. (See the state's latest numbers here.) But many ballots still haven’t been tallied, so it is possible that I-522 still has a fighting chance?
Because of Washington’s mail-in ballot system, many votes aren’t counted on election night and the results aren’t formally certified for weeks. The state does post estimates about how many ballots from each county are yet to be counted. (These estimates aren’t perfect, but they’re the best we’ve got.) If every single vote still uncounted on Wednesday night went to the Yes side, I-522 would end up passing with 60% of the vote.
But every single vote is not really possible. So what can we see by digging into the tallies? I-522 is leading in only four counties, but one of those is giant King County — and about 30 percent of King County votes were yet to be counted on Wednesday night. Other big counties — Pierce, Kitsap, Snohomish — also have lots of votes left to tally.
What if you assume each county’s uncounted ballots continue to follow the same percentages — would King County’s presumably high number of uncounted Yes votes be enough to tip the balance?
No. We did the math, and if all the counties continue on their current trajectories, the numbers get slightly better for I-522, but only very slightly — an increase from 45.95% in favor to 46.29%.
Even if you changed that assumption to say every single uncounted King County ballot is a Yes vote, I-522 would still come in just under 50%.
So, for I-522 to have a chance, you have a assume all the ballots not yet counted are significantly more in favor than all the ballots already counted. Of the estimated 422,157 uncounted ballots, 258,527 would have to be Yes votes to gain the majority — that means about two-thirds of all remaining ballots. That’s very, very unlikely. But for those who want to hold onto hope, it’s not strictly impossible until more of the votes are tallied.
Wondering if your vote has been counted yet? You can check here.
UPDATE: Here's a quick look at where things stand after more ballots were counted on Thursday. It was an encouraging day for those hoping things could turn around, with the Yes side edging up to 47.05% of the vote so far. The overall number of estimated ballots increased, especially in King County — not surprising, they have the most to keep track of — and that did make a difference in favor of I-522. Still probably not enough, though. Here are updated charts showing the difference between Wednesday and Thursday, and the updated trajectory based on ballots counted so far.
UPDATE (11/13): Since the last update, the count has continued much the same way: The Yes votes have continued to gain ground, but almost definitely not enough. At the end of Tuesday, the vote stood at 48.25% yes, 51.75% no — the closest yet. But, because there are fewer votes left to count, it’s actually less likely that 522 will pass. It would need to get 83% of the outstanding votes.
No ballots were counted on Monday because of Veterans Day. The counties making the most progress with tallying votes since last week are the big ones like King, Pierce, Snohomish and Whatcom. Many smaller counties list somewhere from 25 to 200 ballots left to count, and don’t plan to count again for a week or two when all ballots have surely arrived.
UPDATE (11/14): After votes were counted on Thursday, the Yes on 522 campaign officially conceded. With nearly 49% of the vote, it was close — but there are no longer enough uncounted ballots to make up the difference. The numbers will continue to shift a bit as the rest of the votes are counted and results are properly certified, but this is the end of our daily tracking. Here's the full post-mortem, this time showing the precise number of votes so you can see how the total increased as ballots arrived the first few days after the election.
This year, the city of Coeur d’Alene was deeply divided over which mayoral candidate could better fix the city’s divisions.
Downtown business owner Steve Widmyer and dark-horse candidate Joe Kunka argued that voting for long-time urban renewal critic and recall cheerleader Mary Souza would only pick at the scabs left after the McEuen Field fight. But Souza countered that healing Coeur d’Alene depended on voting for her, a candidate who champions public votes.
On each side, PACs lined up. The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans championed Souza, and non-partisan Balance North Idaho threw their lot in with Widmyer.
As the first vote totals trickled in, Souza was losing by 14 percentage points to Widmyer. The city council choices pushed by Souza supporters — Chris Fillios, Noel Adam and Sharon Hebert — were also losing.
In the latter days of the campaign, the groups supporting Souza began focusing less on criticizing Widmyer or Kunka, and more on firing salvos at the Coeur d’Alene Press. And a political cartoon published on Souza’s site portrays a scraggly-haired ghoul labeled “THE PRESS,” warning “Mary might be mayor! Run for your lives! BE VERY AFRAID.”
In fact, North Idaho Pachyderm Club broke from tradition and announced they would not allow Press editor Mike Patrick to speak in front of the club about the results of the elections because the paper “has been so lopsided in favor of the Widmyer slate, it is really reprehensible and disgusting.”
Widmyer, for his part, tried mostly to stay out of the fray. For a few moments, an independent Souza-bashing website called “Unfit For Mayor” popped up, but Widmyer says that, even though he didn’t have anything to do with the site, he made the suggestion that it be taken down. And it was.
“I think we tried to always take the high road in the campaign and we achieved that,” Widmyer says.
Greater Spokane Inc. and the Spokane County Commissioners certainly didn’t undersell their argument for voting for Proposition 1: They tied the very future of Fairchild Air Force Base to the vote, implying economic calamity if taxes weren’t raised to buy a series of mobile home parks located in the Fairchild crash zone.
There was no question that the properties have for decades been in a designated crash zone — and encroached on base operations — and that concern persuaded the Airway Heights mayor and most the Spokane City Council to support removing the homes.
But the argument didn’t work on the tax-averse Spokane Valley Council nor on Spokane County as a whole. Tuesday night, voters were rejecting Prop. 1 51 percent to 49 percent. As he waits for final tallies, County Commissioner Al French turns his eye to the 4 percent who turned in ballots, but didn’t take a stance on the issue.
Meanwhile, local nonprofits who planned to help relocate the current residents in the parks could have been a key ally of the county, but expressed deep concerns about the project. While Habitat for Humanity’s executive director supported the initiative, John Fisher, with Community Frameworks, remained neutral: “Our stance has always been that the timing was off, that new housing needed to be built before residents were placed.”
French worries Fairchild remains in jeopardy:
“It means the community is exposed when we go into the next round of [base closures]. I’ve got to tell you I’m very nervous,” French says, adding that there’s no way the state or county can afford to buy the properties and relocate the residents.
“There’s no other strategy we’re aware of today,” French says. “If there had been other resources we could have tapped, we would have done it.”
After $27 million and seven months of campaigning, it appears Washington won’t become the first state in the country to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods after all. Early returns on Tuesday night showed Initiative 522 was failing statewide 45 percent to 55 percent. Voters had rejected I-522 in all but three counties — Jefferson, King and Whatcom. In Spokane, 62 percent voted against the measure.
Labeling supporters, however, were cautiously optimistic about their initiative’s chances.
“It is really too close to call. We have hundreds of thousands of votes left to be counted in King County alone,” says Elizabeth Larter, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 522 campaign.
No on 522 raised $22 million — more money than any other initiative campaign in Washington state history — to defeat the measure, thanks to multimillion-dollar donations from out-of-state biotech giants like Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, and food-industry stalwarts from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
After an influx of anti-labeling campaign ads hit the airwaves, an October poll showed that support for I-522 had dropped 20 points from the previous month to 46 percent. Opposition on the other hand climbed.
The Yes on 522 camp, meanwhile, raised just under $8 million. Although thousands of individual donors from Washington state contributed to the pro-labeling camp, the majority of its financial support came from out-of-state organic and natural product companies, such as California-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which dedicated $1.7 million to the effort.
In California, voters rejected a similar ballot measure last year. There, labeling opponents raised five times as much as supporters.
“They took a tip directly from Vladimir Lenin — that a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and they used $20 million to tell those lies,” says Ron Cully, a Spokane volunteer for the Yes side. “I don’t think this war is over by any stretch of the imagination.”
On Tuesday, Washingtonians also handily rejected Tim Eyman’s “initiative on initiatives,” I-517, with 60 percent of the vote. The measure would have sent any state or local initiative with enough signatures to the ballot and make “interfering with signature gathering” illegal. Opponents argued that I-517 would infringe on the free speech rights of citizens who voice opposition to signature gatherers and the private property rights of business owners.
Even in a non-presidential year and in a technically nonpartisan race, Tuesday’s election sent a clear message about the city’s current political leanings. With wins for Candace Mumm and Jon Snyder, the Spokane City Council will shift from a 4-3 conservative majority to a union-backed liberal one.
In the contentious bid to fill conservative Nancy McLaughlin’s seat representing northwest Spokane, Mumm led conservative Michael Cannon 54-45 percent as of 10 pm Tuesday. The race drew more than $150,000 in campaign contributions and PAC-funded attack ads on TV and in the mail. In the end, money won the day for Mumm who out-fundraised Cannon by $25,000.
“The voters I talked to knew I’m a get-’er-done girl, and that’s what they wanted,” Mumm said among a group of supporters sipping red wine at the Kendall Yards neighborhood clubhouse Tuesday night. “They didn’t like all the politics.”
The ideological divide was clear as Cannon — who sat on Mayor David Condon’s transition team and chairs the city’s Housing and Human Services Board — aligned almost entirely with Condon. Meanwhile, Mumm stood behind liberal Council President Ben Stuckart. The candidates clashed on whether the city should implement a 1 percent property tax increase in the 2014 budget, whether the council should strengthen the city’s sit-lie law and whether the mayor’s recent moves to increase the number of exempt city positions (in which employees are appointed rather than hired through civil service) were beneficial or dangerous.
Cannon saw support from Condon, conservative councilmen Steve Salvatori and Mike Allen and a PAC funded primarily by local construction firms, homebuilder groups and City Administrator Theresa Sanders. Prominent local liberals like Rich Cowan, state Sen. Andy Billig and Stuckart lined up behind Mumm, a former TV news reporter and Plan Commission member who worked on Mary Verner’s re-election campaign against Condon. Drawing conservative ire, most of her big contributions came from local and state unions, including firefighters, health care workers and county and city employees.
Incumbent Councilman Jon Snyder, a transportation-focused member of the council’s current liberal minority, held his seat representing the South Hill, Peaceful Valley and Browne’s Addition against a challenge from Republican and former state Rep. John Ahern. While their race never got as testy as the other, Snyder criticized Ahern for being short on specifics and energy. Ahern challenged Snyder on whether he’d done enough to make the city business-friendly, promising he’d look to loosen regulations. Snyder says he was confident he’d hold onto his seat Tuesday, but was “thrilled” with the nearly 30 percent margin by which he won. Ahern, meanwhile, warned of the impact union-supported victories could have on the city.
“I don’t want to see Spokane wind up like Detroit did,” Ahern told the Inlander after results were announced. “The unions that ran Detroit pretty much over-demanded and got too much. That’s why Detroit went bankrupt. Spokane could be on the same road. You get pretty much what you ask for.”
WASHINGTON STATE INITIATIVES
Reporting of about 1.15 million votes statewide (72% of total).
Initiative 522 (GMO labeling):
Initiative 517 (petition and initiative rules):
CITY OF SPOKANE Results as of Nov. 6
CITY COUNCIL, District 2
John Ahern 35%
Jon Snyder: 64%
CITY COUNCIL, District 3
Michael Cannon: 46%
Candace Mumm: 54%
Bob Douthitt: 54%
Sally Fullmer: 45%
SPOKANE VALLEY Results as of Nov. 6
CITY COUNCIL, Position 1
Rod Higgins: 51%
Linda J. Thompson: 48%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 4
Ed Pace: 50%
Gary Schimmels: 49%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 5
Chuck Hafner: 65%
Donald (Don) Morgan Jr.: 34%
CITY COUNCIL, Position 7
Bill Bates: 66%
Fred Beaulac: 33%
SPOKANE COUNTY Reported around 8:20 pm (about 82% of ballots counted)
Proposition 1 (levy to buy mobile home parks around Fairchild):
LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 7 Reporting of about 23,000 votes.
Brian Dansel (R): 53%
John Smith (R): 47%
COEUR D'ALENE Results reported at 11:13 pm
Joseph Kunka: 2%, 132
Mary Souza: 42%, 3,556
Steve Widmyer: 56%, 4,719
POST FALLS Results reported at 11:13 pm
Ron Jacobson: 60%, 1,365
Kerri Thoreson: 40%, 909
There's no question our political system is getting more and more complex, thanks to technology. Based on our demographics — age, gender, Facebook likes — candidates and political parties, like advertisers, target us based on who we are to sell us a particular brand of their message.
In local elections, things may not be quite so dramatic, but campaigns are utilizing new resources to know more about every voter.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says in recent years campaigns have begun requesting information not only about voter registration, but also reports known as "match-backs." The reports, updated in real time as the elections office receives ballots and runs them through its sorting machines, show who's returned their ballot and who returned a ballot but forgot to sign it. Parties and campaigns compare all that data to their own lists of voters (think: voters in a certain neighborhood they're targeting or people who've signed up to receive their updates) and target voters on that list who haven't returned their ballots or have missing signatures.
"For campaigns, it's about resources," Dalton says. "They only want to contact voters who have not returned their ballots."
Some private companies combine publicly available information with details from other public records or web resources, and sell campaigns a detailed list of voters in a certain city or neighborhood, says Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin.
To be clear, no campaign, party or election official can see your actual ballot or how you voted, but the following pieces of information are public:
*Voter beware: If you forgot to sign your ballot, no campaign or party should ask you for your signature. If someone returns a ballot without a signature, the auditor sends them a letter they're asked to sign and return. Some campaigns and parties have taken things one step further, gathering those missing signatures. "We do not want parties or campaigns inserting themselves in this process," Dalton says. "We do not want anyone else who does not work for my office collecting signatures and turning them in to us — or failing to."
In some of the last decade's "excruciatingly close" state and U.S. congressional races in the county, Dalton says voters have complained of candidate campaigns or parties hounding them for their vote. Take the 2008 race for a state House seat in the 6th District, which wraps around the west side of Spokane, when John Driscoll beat John Ahern by just 74 votes.
"On Election Night when everyone figured out it was going to be incredibly close, every single person who was [designated] 'missing signature' or 'no signature' was contacted over and over and over again by both campaigns," Dalton says. "We had people calling us and yelling at us, 'Make these people stop!'"
Ultimately, resistance may be futile. In this year's upcoming election, McLaughlin says he's had requests for voter records from campaigns for Spokane City Council (Citizens to Elect Michael Cannon, Friends of Candace Mumm, Citizens for John Ahern), the Washington State Republican Party, the Spokane GOP Executive Committee, the Spokane County Democratic Party, Douthitt for Spokane Schools and others.
And with negative campaign ads often hitting in the final two days before elections, Dalton says campaigns have learned they may have to double down on voters in the last moments, "and there's no point in contacting people who've already turned their ballots in."
"This is all going to change," Dalton says. "Fifteen years ago, this was just barely in its infancy, what was available about individual voters. Give it a few more years and there's going to be even more history about individual voters."
Yesterday, President Obama called him “a man who embodied the virtues of devotion and respect.”
Tom Foley, a Spokane native and former U.S. Speaker of the House, will be honored Friday at a memorial service held at Gonzaga University, and we have more details in this week’s paper. Our publisher also devoted his weekly column to Foley and the era of politics he represented.
When Foley spoke in Spokane 2006, the local Hamilton Studio prepared this documentary — poignant but often funny — about his life and career. It has been updated with an introduction that includes some of his remarks from that 2006 appearance. (For those who know little about him, you may want to start at the 4:15 mark.)
In it, Foley says: “Public office is a gift — it’s a gift of a free people. It’s the greatest gift that anyone interested in public life can receive — the confidence, the support, the hope of the American people who give you that great gift.”
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