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Published: Sunday, August 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

With only 14 percent of ballots in, apathy is winning the primary

EVERETT — The 2014 primary is nearly in the books.
Voting ends Tuesday in what may rank as one of Snohomish County's least enthralling mid-term elections.
At stake are decisions that could increase the price of products in Monroe, affect the debate on school funding in Olympia and test the power of incumbents in Congress.
But voters are not rushing to help make them.
As of Friday morning, 58,739 ballots had been returned — about 14 percent of the 418,289 ballots mailed out countywide.
Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel predicted turnout will wind up around 32 percent, down from the 38 percent mark hit in the last two mid-term primaries.
“Voters at this point don't seem to be engaged in this primary,” she said. “I honestly don't know the immediate cause of that.”
It's not just Snohomish County.
“We're certainly seeing record low turnouts across the country,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Friday. “The very high voter apathy is very disappointing.”
In Washington, where the top two vote-getters advance regardless of their party, the primary is the knockout round in those races with three or more candidates.
“It matters. Who you get to vote for in the (November) general election gets determined Tuesday,” Wyman said.
Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Tuesday. Voters can save the cost of a stamp by putting completed ballots in any one of 11 drop boxes in the county up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
In Monroe, the big question is whether to hike the city's sales tax to generate additional money for road work.
Proposition 1, if approved, would raise the current 8.7 percent sales tax rate to 8.9 percent for 10 years. It would bring in about $826,000 a year for maintenance of Monroe's streets.
Voters in the 21st Legislative District are sorting out who they want to replace Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, who is retiring. Four Democrats and one Republican are vying for the seat, and the top two vote-getters will advance to face off in November.
School funding is one of the bright lines dividing them.
Democrats Scott Whelpley, Strom Peterson, Justin McMahon and Dick McManus think new sources of revenue for schools must be found. Republican Allen McPheeters said there is enough dough in the state budget for schools, though it may mean spending less on non-education programs.
All ballots include a congressional representative race.
Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBene in the 1st Congressional District, Rick Larsen in the 2nd District and Jim McDermott in the 7th District each face multiple challengers. While all three are expected to advance, Tuesday will provide a barometer of their popularity with the electorate.
Also Tuesday, appointed Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, a Democrat, is up against Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick, a Republican, and James Deal, a Democrat.
And there are competitive races for judicial seats and a commissioner seat for the Snohomish County Public Utility District.
Candidates are diligently knocking on doors, Weikel said. But their campaigns and the media don't appear to be stirring up as much excitement among voters compared to past cycles.
And there have been few community events at which the public can learn about the office-seekers without the filter of the campaigns and the commercials.
One explanation may be the dearth of contested races for seats in the Legislature, which can be a vehicle for driving up interest. Only five of the 18 legislative races on the ballot involve more than two candidates and thus require a thinning of the field by voters.
Nor are there any controversial statewide initiatives to lure voters.
“This primary is very important,” Wyman said. “I think it's easy to think your vote doesn't matter, but this is really setting up your choices for November.”
For more information about the election and drop-box locations, go to www.snoco.org/elections or call 425-388-3444.
Ballot drop boxes
Voters can avoid paying postage by putting their marked ballot in any of the drop boxes in Snohomish County. They must be dropped off before 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Ballots can also be turned in at the county auditor's office, on the first floor of the Snohomish County Administration Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. The office will be accepting ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Drop boxes are at:
  • Arlington (near library), 135 N. Washington Ave.
  • Edmonds (near library), 650 Main St.
  • Everett (Courthouse Campus), Rockefeller Avenue and Wall Street.
  • Everett (at McCollum Park), 600 128th St. SE.
  • Lake Stevens (near the city boat launch), 1800 Main St.
  • Lynnwood (in front of City Hall), 19100 44th Ave.
  • Marysville (behind Municipal Court), 1015 State Ave.
  • Monroe (near library), 1070 Village Way.
  • Mukilteo (near library), 4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd.
  • Snohomish (near library), 311 Maple Ave.
  • Stanwood (near library), 9701 271st St. NW.
 

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