Most willingly pick a party

A large majority of Island County voters is choosing to participate in the presidential primary even if it means publicly declaring their party preference, according to numbers compiled by the Island County Auditor’s Office.

Ballots for the Feb. 19 primary were mailed out late last week. For the first time ever in this state, voters are required to mark a box, either Democrat or Republican, if they want to participate in the presidential selection process. That mark becomes public information.

While there have been complaints that publicly picking a party is anathema to some Washington voters, who collectively are known for their independent streak, early results show they comprise a decided minority.

Through Monday, the County Auditor’s Office had received back 12,729 of the 43,111 ballots mailed out. Of those, only 1,037 voters did not declare a party and therefore their presidential choice will not be counted, assuming they made one. Some voters, no doubt, just skipped the presidential primary and went on to local election issues, which do not require checking a party box.

The Auditor’s Office won’t count votes until the election officially ends at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, but it does check the envelopes for signatures.

Loann Gulick, elections officer, described the number of people choosing not to pick a party as “very low,” less than 10 percent of the electorate. Another 108 voters didn’t even sign their ballot, but the elections workers follow up on this oversight by sending letters to those people asking them to come in and sign so their votes can be counted.

The North Whidbey ballot includes not only the presidential choices, but also a proposal from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue to raise its property tax levy from the current 64.7 cents per thousand to $1 per thousand. If approved, the extra $700,000 would be used for equipment and facilities improvements.

The South Whidbey ballot is more extensive. The school district has four proposals. One asks to replace a maintenance and operation levy, another to fund capital and technology expenses, another to finance school buses, and another to change how board members are elected to provide two at-large positions.

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District is asking to retain its maintenance and operation levy while also asking for $1.6 million in bonds to finance improvements.

Ballots have to be postmarked before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, to be counted. For information, call the Auditor’s Office at 679-7366.

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