Sultan School Board candidates (from left) Bryon Atkinson, Mike Varnell and Jordan Sears.

Sultan School Board candidates (from left) Bryon Atkinson, Mike Varnell and Jordan Sears.

Where are the voters? So few returned ballots are ‘baffling’

Also: A too-young school board candidate in Sultan is old enough now, and he’s running as a write-in.

OLYMPIA — With the election set to end Tuesday, most voters are once again procrastinating about participating.

Snohomish County mailed 456,000 ballots and 9 percent had been returned by the morning of Halloween.

In Everett, where the race for mayor is considered too close to call, just under 10 percent had come back.

It was 14.7 percent in Mukilteo, where mud is flying in a pair of civic contests, and 13.2 percent in Snohomish where voters are choosing a mayor, restocking the council and voicing their opinion on whether it’s time to allow retail marijuana stores in the city.

Auditor Carolyn Weikel said the slow rate of returns is kind of “baffling” but she’s become accustomed to voters waiting until the last minute to get their ballot in.

And it adds a degree of complication to her unofficial duty of predicting turnout.

She originally forecast 37 percent of registered voters in the county would participate. She said she recalibrated downward to 34 percent after her number-crunching elections manager showed her data on this year’s pace and what’s occurred historically.

“All I can say is I hope he is wrong,” Weikel said. “I’m hoping people will get interested in their community’s elections.”

The other write-in: There’s a bit more attention than usual to a Sultan School Board race because of Jordan Sears.

And he’s not even on the ballot.

Sears filed to run in May. But the Sultan High School graduate was denied a spot in the primary because he was two months shy of turning 18.

Now he’s old enough and is competing as a write-in against Mike Varnell and Bryon Atkinson. There’s no incumbent in the race.

The winner will take a seat on a school board that will face major challenges next year including passing a bond and levy, expanding and upgrading classrooms, and recruiting and retaining talented teachers.

Sears knows his bid is a longshot.

He’s launched a Facebook page, posted a few signs around town and is out and about, talking to voters about the perspective he’d bring as a youthful board member.

“There needs to be someone like me who has been through the (school) system in the last 40 years and knows what it’s like,” he said, asserting the average age of board members is 60.

Varnell, 45, lauded Sears’ determination while noting his own strong connections to the school district: His wife teaches at the high school and five of the couple’s children have attended Sultan schools.

“(Jordan) has tenacity and grit, and wherever his path leads him, he will go far,” Varnell said. “However, I do know what I bring to the table — life experience, business experience, and two decades of living and working in and for this community.”

Atkinson, 49, also has children attending Sultan schools. He, too, cited his experience with the district while cheering Sears’ initiative.

“It is awesome that Jordan can follow his dreams and passions,” he said in an email. “I wish he was on the ballot. He has been a part of this from the start.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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