Voters punch holes in primary

Democrat, Republican, Libertarian all are self explanatory. But where was the non-partisan ballot supposed to go?

Voters in Island County got a chance to experience Washington’s new version of the primary election Tuesday. The Montana-style system requests that voters choose a political party and vote only for candidates within that party. The non-partisan races were open to anybody.

“We’re not getting the grouchy people we thought we were going to get,” Precinct Judge Gary Karg said. “It’s more confusion than anything. There’s been only one person who was angry.”

Karg said part of his duties while working at the Taylor Road fire station, which housed seven precincts, was to inform voters and make the experience as smooth as possible.

Some voters, such as Oak Harbor resident Janet Julius, found no problems with the change from Washington’s traditional “blanket primary,” in which voters could vote for any name of the ballot, regardless of party. That system ended with a court ruling this year.

“I think it’s fine,” Julius said of the new system. “I think that the people who belong to a party should be the one who choose their candidate.”

Across the county, only approximately 30 percent of the 41,995 registered voters vote at polling places. The Island County Auditor’s office sent 28,735 absentee ballots to voters. Absentee ballots needed to be postmarked by Tuesday.

Oak Harbor resident Michelle Mann ventured out to the Taylor Road polling place to cast her vote. The system is similar to how she had to vote in Texas, she said.

“There was a lot of confusion,” Mann said. “I didn’t get a lot of information on what I was voting on.”

At the Oak Harbor polling place, residents from 10 of Oak Harbor’s 15 precincts cast their votes. Precinct Judge Joe Moreland said has has worked the polls the last 10 years and the turnout seemed to be higher than in years past.

“I think we’re having a better turnout than last election,” Moreland said. “There’s been a pretty steady stream. Last November, we had big breaks, but none this year. It’s been relatively busy.”

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Island County Elections Supervisor Loann Gulick said that although her office was extremely busy, voting was running smoothly.

Washington’s Secretary of State Sam Reed said in a written statement Friday that he expects the new primary system to have an adverse effect on voter turnout.

“This is new territory for Washington with many unknowns,” Reed said. “Preliminary reports from county auditors across Washington indicate between 36 and 38 percent of registered voters will participate.”

Oak Harbor resident Sarah Nauman said voting in the new primary left her dazed and confused.

“I think it could have been a lot less confusing,” she said. “I think we should have more choices, not be limited to one party. I want the most options available.”

Not all of the reaction to the change was negative, however. Oak Harbor resident Tom Glenn said he has experienced similar primary systems elsewhere in the country.

“It doesn’t bother me, I’ve been in other states,” Glenn said. “But I like it where I can pick anybody. I don’t like this system. I didn’t realize that non-partisans were on the same ballots.”

Moreland said the public’s reaction has been more confusion than outrage.

“We had one guy and he was just being a little loud,” he said. “But nobody has really yelled or thrown any temper tantrums.”

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