Edgecliff voters not likely to sway Prop. 1 election

MAP: Langley's "Very Likely Voters" | This “heat map” shows the location of Langley’s “very likely voters” — residents who have voted in nine or 10 of the last 10 elections held in the city. The larger the dot, the greater the population of “very likely voters” in that location.


Langley’s stout population of eager voters makes it unlikely that Edgecliff residents who are angry about the city’s approval of the controversial Langley Passage will be the deciding factor in the upcoming vote to change the city’s form of government.

That’s the takeaway from an analysis of registered voter records and past election trends in Langley conducted by the South Whidbey Record. The newspaper examined the voting history of more than 800 registered voters in the Village by the Sea to determine who was most likely to cast a ballot on Proposition 1 in August’s Primary Election.

Though the fate of Prop. 1 will not be decided until Election Day, the newspaper’s analysis shows that residents in the Edgecliff area will vote and are among the most likely voters in town to cast ballots in the election. That said, their overall numbers are small.

While it’s doubtful that every Edgecliff resident will vote in favor of Prop. 1 — and some in the east-end neighborhood have already said they oppose the move to rid Langley of its position of a popularly-elected mayor — past voting records show that the great majority of Edgecliff residents fall into the category of “very likely voters.” The analysis defined “very likely voters” as those who have cast ballots in nine-of-10, or 10-of-10, of the most recent elections in Island County, including May’s Special Election on an expansion bond for Whidbey General Hospital.

Throughout Langley’s two precincts, a total of 264 of Langley’s 892 registered voters can be classified as “very likely voters.”

In Edgecliff, a total of 47 voters are “very likely voters,” and have voted in nine or 10 of the last 10 elections.

That number, however, represents only 17 percent of “very likely voters” in Langley’s next election. Computer mapping of where “very likely voters” live in Langley show that the most dependable voters in the Village by the Sea don’t dwell on the city’s east end, but are concentrated on Langley’s west side, by Saratoga Creek, as well as in the near-downtown neighborhoods between Third and Sixth Streets, and in the Cedars neighborhood in south Langley.

Prop. 1, if approved, will see the city abandon the council-mayor form of government that has ruled city hall since Langley was incorporated in 1913. The job of an elected mayor would be eliminated, and a manager hired by the city council would run the day-to-day operations of city hall.

Prop. 1 made it onto the ballot via a citizens’ petition that was largely successful due to the signatures of Edgecliff residents. Many in Edgecliff have been critical of the city for its handling of Langley Passage, a project approved by the city council in April that will mean the construction of 20 new homes in the neighborhood.

Residents in the group of “very likely voters” contacted by the Record — those willing to share their opinions publicly — said they were opposed to Prop. 1.

Florence Haun, a registered voter in Island County for more than 50 years, has a perfect voting record that stretches well beyond a decade.

She’s opposed to Prop. 1, and said it takes away the ability of voters to decide who should run the city.

“The people in town have a better chance of putting in who we want. And we can fire them if we don’t want them,” she said. “I think that’s the best way to go.”

She said there wasn’t any way she’d miss casting a vote in the next election.

“I was anxious as a kid to get to 21 because we couldn’t vote until we were 21. And I have voted ever since,” Haun said.

Walter Grisham is another one of Langley’s most dependable voters. He’s been a registered voter here since 1964.

“I’m against it,” Grisham said of Prop. 1.

Beyond being a “very likely voter” — having voted in 10 of the past 10 elections, and an unbroken streak that stretches well beyond — Grisham also has inside experience at city hall. He was appointed to a council seat back in the late 1960s.

“I still think that a mayor’s the best way for Langley to go,” Grisham said. “With the size of the city, I don’t think a city manager would do us too much good, really.”

Voting is more than a civic duty, he said.

“I always tell everybody if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what happens. So therefore, I make sure I vote every time so I can complain,” he said with a laugh.

“Very likely voters” in Langley make up roughly 29 percent of the city’s active voter base. That group will be important in the next primary, in this “off-year” election cycle without congressional or presidential candidates on the ballot, as the turnout is typically lower than in even-year elections.

Though Langley has traditionally had a more robust turnout than the county as a whole, turnout during recent primaries has ranged from 49 percent in 2006, to 66 percent in 2008, to 57 percent in 2010 in the city.

The turnout in this year’s primary is expected to be on the high end of the historical range for off-year elections, given two three-way races on the ballot for council seats.

Election Day is eight weeks away, and campaigns both for and against Prop. 1 have been slow to materialize, though opponents against the measure did host a well-attended town hall earlier this month.

Kathleen Waters, a co-chairwoman of the vote-no committee, said Prop. 1 proponents will have a tough time convincing most voters — likely ones or not — of the merits of a switch.

“I think everyday folks and the people who live in Langley know that things aren’t really broken, that the government isn’t broken.”

“I think people really love checks and balances; they love the system we’re used to,” she said.


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