Whether you live in King or Pierce County, you should now have your ballot in hand, as election day is right around the corner on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
As always, you can return your ballot via mail, drop box, or voting centers.
If you choose to mail your ballot in, King County Elections recommends getting it in the mail before Nov. 5 to make sure it is postmarked in time.
If you go with the drop box, Enumclaw residents can head to their local library, and Black Diamond residents can either go there or the Tahoma School District building on Maple Valley Black Diamond Road (the drop box is between the district building and Rock Creek Elementary). Over in Buckley, a drop box is available at the Buckley library. Dropbox deadlines are 8 p.m. Nov. 5.
If you’re not yet registered to vote, you’ve still got time, as the deadline to register by mail or online is Oct. 28. You can register online at the Washington Secretary of State’s website, or print a registration form to mail to your respective county election department.
But if you’re all registered and ready to vote, here’s a quick recap on some of the referendums, initiatives, and races on your ballot.
• Referendum 88
First up is the much-discussed Referendum 88, which concerns affirmative action.
The referendum has more than a little history behind it.
In November 1998, Washington voters approved Initiative 200, which did one of two things, depending on who you asked.
Proponents of I-200 said the bill would prohibit the state from “discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the public employment, education, and contracting,” or, in other words, keeps the state from practicing “reverse discrimination,” where the state would use sex or race to pick a minority applicant instead of picking based on qualifications.
Opponents said the initiative would end a long state history of using what’s known as “affirmative action,” which allowed the state to consider race and race when selecting applicants in order to increase diversity and dismantle institutional racism.
Governor Jay Inslee signed Initiative-1000 — which reversed I-200 — into law this year, adding that affirmative action can now also consider sexual orientation, mental and physical disabilities, and veterans. The initiative also stipulated none of those factors could be the sole reason for picking one person over another, and also banned the use of quotas, or hiring a specific number or percentage of people based on various diversity factors.
The initiative also established a commission on diversity, tasked with monitoring and enforcing I-1000 and publish annual reports on the progress of agencies and how they’re achieving diversity.
However, I-1000 didn’t go into effect, as enough signatures were gathered to put R-88 on the ballot and allow Washingtonians the final say over whether they want the state to use affirmative action.
Supporters of I-1000 says affirmative action gives minorities that have been historically overlooked in government hiring, contracting, and education a level playing field, especially now that affirmative actions includes considering veterans and those with disabilities.
Opponents say the initiative will only serve to further divide the state by allowing sex and race to become a factor in government employment and college admissions, and that approving R-88 would actually hurt a veteran’s chances for employment or education, rather than help, since they already have some preferential treatment when it comes to hiring, and approving this referendum widens their competition pool. They also point out that members of the diversity commission would not be elected to their positions by the public, and wouldn’t be accountable to voters.
According to the Office of Financial Management, the cost of R-88, most of which goes to the diversity commission, would cost the state $1.5 million per budget biennium.
Approving R-88 would make I-1000 effective on Dec. 5, 2019.
• Initiative 976
The other statewide initiative that has people talking is I-976, which will determine how much people will pay for car license fees.
Currently, car owners pay a varying amount of money when they register their vehicle or get their tabs every year. The fees depend on the type and weight of the vehicle, and where the car is registered.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, the base fee ranges from $30 to $93 for most cars, motorcycles, and light-duty trucks. Depending on the weight of the vehicle, the fee then increases between $25 to $65 for most drivers.
These various fees and taxes fund transportation projects like road and highway repairs.
On top of that, some people in the King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties pay an additional motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) that is calculated based on a car’s valuation and a depreciation schedule set by the state; the tax is 1.1 percent of the vehicle’s value.
MVET fees go toward funding Sound Transit projects.
Approving I-976 would have wide effects.
First, vehicle registration and tab renewal fees would be limited to $30, and local Transportation Benefit District (TBDs) would be eliminated. The measure would also do away with the state motor vehicle sales tax.
Second, regional transit authorities like Sound Transit would need to defease, refinance, or retire the bonds they have, if they can. Once that is finished, regional transit authorities would no longer be able to impose MVET fees.
Finally, any future voter-approved MVETs would be determined using the Kelley Blue Book as the base to determining a vehicle’s worth.
According to the Office of Financial Management, the state would stand to lose nearly $2 billion in revenue over the next six years. This figure will be different than the one voters read in their Voters Pamphlets, as the OFM submitted a revised estimate on Oct. 4, 2019. You can read the revised estimate at www.voter.votewa.gov.
Additionally, local governments are expected to lose a further $2.3 billion.
Implementing I-976 would also cost an estimated $2.8 million during the 2019-2021 budget biennium.
• King County Proposition No. 1
Proposition 1 concerns replacing a current Medic One EMS levy.
Voters last re-approved the levy in 2013, instating a 33.5 cent tax per $1,000 in assessed property value. Since then, the levy has depreciated to 22 cents per $1,000 in APV.
If voters decide to approve the levy again, the tax will be raised to 26.5 cents per $1,000 APV, and is estimated to depreciate as property values increase, as state law stipulates municipalities counties, and departments can’t collect more than 1 percent more in property taxes every following year.
Approving Prop. 1 means collection would begin in 2020.
CITIES, DEPARTMENTS, AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS
• Buckley Council Pos. 4, 5, and 6
Buckley easily has the most going on this election with three contested races.
Starting with Pos. 4, incumbent Councilman Beau Burkett is being challenged by Amanda Burbank. Burkett is serving his fourth year as an elected official, having been born and raised in Buckley. Outside of his council duties, which includes being the chair for the Transportation and Utilities Committee, Burkett is a heavy truck driver and equipment operator, and currently serves on the Buckley Log Show committee.
Burbank is a fifth-grade teacher at Foothills Elementary, and also serves as the White River Education Association Treasurer and the association’s building representative. According to her official candidate statement, she wants to focus on bringing business to the city’s Main Street.
For Pos. 5, Councilman John Leggett will be stepping down, Lyn Rose and David Lewis are vying for his seat.
Rose has some elected experience, having been appointed to the city council in 2009 to 2010, and then was elected to serve 2011 to 2015. She also serves on the Buckley Planning Commission, is a White River Hometowns Fund board member, a board member of the Friends of the Buckley Library, and is a docent at the Foothills Historical Society.
Outside her elected and volunteer experience, Rose was a branch manager with the Puyallup Community Action Agency and worked in client outreach with the Buckley Rural Economic Opportunity organization.
Lewis has no elected experience, but works in the constructed field, having supervised multi-million dollar residential projects.
Last, but not least, is Pos. 6. The seat’s current occupant, Milt Tremblay, is not seeking re-election, leaving the race to Marvin Sundstrom and Berkley Bachmeier.
Sundstrom has some elected experience, having served the Buckley City Council from 2013 through 2017. He also served on the Tahoma School Board for six years, and was also the district’s Chair of Personnel and Negotiations for another five-and-a-half years.
Professionally, Sundstrom worked his way up to a mine laborer to mine superintendent, and then went on to work at Boeing for nearly three decades before settling down with his own small business for another 20 years.
He’s also an Air Force veteran, coaches youth sports, and competes in and judges competitive retriever sports.
His opponent, Bachmeier, did not submit any information to the Pierce County Election Guide.
• White River School District Prop. No. 1
Over in Buckley, the White River School District is asking voters to increase their property taxes by $1 for the next three years, as reported in the Oct. 16 edition of The Courier-Herald.
At the moment, the school collects $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value (APV), the maximum they could collect as set by the 2017 state legislative session.
But since the legislature increased the maximum property tax collection rate to $2.50 per $1,000 APV in 2018, WRHS wants to get in on the action.
This means homes valued at $400,000 (roughly the median value of Buckley homes) would be taxed about $1,000 annually for the next three years.
Approving Prop. No. 1 would bring an estimated $3.75 million into the district’s coffers.
• Enumclaw Council Position No. 2
Only one council seat is contested this election, and the race is between incumbent Beau Chevassus and challenger Tom Bruhn.
Chevassus was appointed to the council position last June after the sudden departure of Councilwoman Kim Lauk.
According to King County elections, his top three hot button issues are developing Enumclaw’s brand to increase economic development, preserving the city’s history for future residents, and encouraging current residents to live healthily.
In addition to being an elected official, Chevassus leads the nonprofit Knok Studio in Enumclaw, and is at the head of multiple small businesses.
Chevassus’ challenger, Bruhn, has not submitted any information to King County.
• Enumclaw Fire Department Commissioner Pos. 3
The only race for an Enumclaw Fire Department Board of Commissioners is the race between Commissioner Paul Fisher and challenger Eric Heintzinger.
Fisher, who is a sales manager outside his fire department board duties, is also a retired Navy Commander, and is campaigning on the wise investment of tax dollars and making sure the Enumclaw Fire Department is properly equipped and trained for any emergency.
Heintzinger is currently works for the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, working his way up from a volunteer firefighter to fire mechanic, then mechanic supervisor, and is presently the fleet manager. He’s campaigning on keeping an eye on increasing costs, looking at alternative funding sources for the department and possibly entering into agreements with surrounding fire departments to keep costs down.
• Black Diamond Council Pos. No. 5
Black Diamond’s only contested race is between incumbent Councilman Chris Wisnoski and challenger Kristiana de Leon.
Wisnoski was appointed to the council in 2018 after a recall vote emptied the No. 5 seat. Professionally, he is an enterprise architect with Premera Blue Cross.
In a recent candidate forum, he listed his top three priorities as focusing on the city infrastructure, health and public safety — which includes trying to get more funding for Mountainview Fire and Rescue — and developing city commercial space.
De Leon is currently a retail assistant manager, but worked for seven years as a teacher. In the same forum, she said her top three priorities are infrastructure — especially roads and transportation — environmental protection, and making the city more inclusive and accessible for its residents.