Voters just waiting until the last minute, officials hope

Today is Election Day with voters deciding if they want to keep incumbent mayors in Lynnwood and Mukilteo, put labels on food made with genetically engineered ingredients and allow signature gathering for initiatives to occur for more time in more places.

Ballots must be postmarked today or put in a drop box by 8 p.m. to be counted. They also can be turned in at the Snohomish County Auditor’s office in Everett until 8 p.m.

Thus far, there’s been a decidedly tepid response from voters with the county pace for one of its poorest turnouts in an odd-year election since 2000.

As of Monday, 76,540 ballots had been returned or about 18.3 percent of the 419,275 ballots mailed out countywide. The lowest turnout in recent years came in 2003 when 40.3 percent of the county’s registered voters participated.

County Auditor Carolyn Weikel refrained Monday from making any turnout predictions.

“I would like to have at least half of our voters participate in this election,” she said.

She didn’t know of any single explanation for the slow rate of return. She’s hoping for a blitz of returns today.

If that happens, it will take several days to finish tallying ballots and settling some of the contests.

Lynnwood Mayor Don Gough and Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine are each seeking a third term and both men face tough challengers.

In Lynnwood, Nicola Smith, a dean at Edmonds Community College, is vying against Gough. In Mukilteo, City Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson is taking on Marine.

Three of the five seats on the Snohomish County Council are in contention and when the counting stops there will be at least two new members.

Councilmen John Koster and Dave Gossett must step down due because of term limits.

Ken Klein, a Republican who is an Arlington city councilman, and Bill Blake, a Democrat who is an Arlington utilities supervisor, are competing for Koster’s seat representing District 1, which covers most of north Snohomish County.

In south Snohomish County, Republican Bob Reedy of Mountlake Terrace faces Democrat Terry Ryan of Mill Creek for Gossett’s seat in District 4.

And in southeast Snohomish County, incumbent Councilman Dave Somers, a Democrat who lives in the unincorporated area near Monroe, is up against Chris Vallo of Lake Stevens, a Republican.

Statewide, the battle on Initiative 522 is one for the record books.

This measure would require labels on genetically modified foods starting in 2015. If passed, Washington would be poised to be the first state in the nation to impose such rules.

Opponents have spent a jaw-dropping $22 million with the biggest chunks coming in multi-million dollar checks from the giants of the food and agri-business industries.

Supporters have expended about $7 million. That money is coming from producers and sellers of organic foods as well as hundreds of food labeling backers living in other states.

The other statewide measure, Initiative 517, had been mostly ignored until opponents the air waves in the final days of the campaign.

If passed, the initiative authored by Mukilteo’s Tim Eyman, would give initiative sponsors an additional six months to collect signatures, bar local governments from blocking votes on ballot measures and make it a crime to create an “intimidating presence” within 25 feet of a person gathering signatures.

It also contains controversial language which opponents claim could guarantee a right to circulate petitions inside sports stadiums and outside private businesses everywhere in the state.

Supporters have not spent any money campaigning for passage but opponents, including large and small grocers have expended roughly $600,000 to defeat it.

More information on today’s election can be found online at www.snoco.org/elections or by calling the county elections office at 425-388-3444.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Where to drop ballots off

Voters can avoid paying postage by putting their marked ballot in any of the drop boxes located in Snohomish County. They must be inserted before 8 p.m.

Ballots can also be dropped off 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 today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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.

More info: www.snoco.org/elections or call 425-388-3444.

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