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AFTERMATH: The 2009 Election, inside the precincts

Signs from this year’s election  are stacked outside Curt Gordon’s asphalt business in Clinton. Gordon won election this November to the Port of South Whidbey board. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Signs from this year’s election are stacked outside Curt Gordon’s asphalt business in Clinton. Gordon won election this November to the Port of South Whidbey board.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

The South End continues to pack the most powerful political punch in Island County, and South Whidbey’s ascendency at the ballot box sealed the fate of Referendum 71 and Initiative 1033 in Island County, a Record analysis of precinct votes shows.

Though Island County has long leaned to the right, Democrats dominated in the 2008 and 2006 elections, taking a Democratic majority in county offices and winning all three seats on the board of county commissioners. Those looking for a Republican resurgence in Island County, however, will have to wait.

According to a review of unofficial returns, fewer voters are going to the polls in precincts that traditionally vote for Republican candidates and causes. Turnout in precincts that have historically voted for Democratic candidates and issues, however, continues to greatly outpace turnout in Republican-leaning precincts. In many instances, the gap was 20 percentage points or more in this November’s election.

The trend is most prevalent on Whidbey Island. For the GOP, there is no longer a lock on the rock.

“I don’t think there’s a lock anymore,” said Ron Wilkinson, chairman of the Island County Democratic Party Central Committee. “I think we feel comfortable, through the whole of Island County, of being able to win.”

Though there were no partisan races on the ballot for this year’s General Election, the Island County Democratic Party made ballot endorsements on R-71, the proposal to preserve the state’s law on domestic partners, and I-1033, the initiative to limit government spending.

The move came after a vote by the party leadership and a vote of its precinct committee officers in the county, and the committee then called for a “yes” vote on R-71 and a “no” vote on I-1033.

Bill Carruthers, chairman of the Island County Republican Central Committee, said the party did not make endorsements on R-71 or I-1033, but it did ask voters to say “no” to R-71, and “yes” to I-1033.

R-71

R-71 passed with a whopping 67-percent approval rate on South Whidbey, according to the Record’s review of precinct returns. [The analysis was made of the unofficial vote tallies through Tuesday, Nov. 10, with an estimated 10 ballots left to count.]

R-71 was also the biggest draw on the ballot countywide, with 27,552 votes cast on the “anything but marriage” referendum.

By comparison, 26,454 voters cast ballots on Sno-Isle’s property tax increase, and 27,258 voters weighed in on I-1033, the Tim Eyman-led effort to cut government spending.

Wilkinson said people’s passion for R-71 was a main factor for the impressive turnout numbers in precincts that typically lean left.

“There was a real feeling that this was an equality issue,” he said.

But interest was high, as well, for I-1033, especially with the current budget crisis in Island County, Wilkinson said.

“The equality issue with R-71 and the knowledge of what I-1033 could do to county budgets ... people were passionate about those,” he said.

Voter turnout on R-71 on the South End (using the number of active registered voters in the 2009 Primary for comparision) was 69.5 percent, higher than the turnout for anything else on the ballot.

Second was Central Whidbey, with an overall average turnout of 65.4 percent, followed by Camano Island with 61 percent.

When compared to other voting areas across Island County, the measure which upheld the domestic-partnership law passed this year by the Legislature failed to pull voters to the polls in the county’s traditionally conservative voting areas.

Turnout was a paltry 47.5 percent overall in the 25 precincts in the Oak Harbor area. In the 10 North Whidbey precincts, turnout was also low; 53 percent.

Area-wide turnout averages, though, don’t fully reflect the dismal showing.

Fewer than a third of those registered bothered to vote in the Ault Precinct, for example. It was almost as bad in Oak Harbor 17, a precinct that had 38-percent turnout, and in Oak Harbor 7, which had 39-percent turnout.

Countywide, the precinct of Oak Harbor 9 had the worst participation in this year’s General Election; just 10 percent of voters there cast ballots.

A dozen of Oak Harbor’s 17 precincts fell below the 50-percent turnout rate. By comparison, only three other precincts elsewhere in the county San de Fuca, Ault and Highland saw fewer than half of their voters cast ballots.

Camano Island had a turnout of 61 percent overall, with a low in the precincts of Madrona and Lost Lake (both 52 percent), and a high in Mabana 1 and Utsalady 1 (70 percent).

The highest turnout on North Whidbey was in Polnell, with 68 percent.

R-71 passed in Island County, with 53 percent of voters approving the referendum. Statewide, it also passed with 53 percent.

The vote to preserve the state’s domestic-partnership law passed in the county by the biggest margins on the South End; seven of South Whidbey’s 20 precincts gave it an approval rate of more than 70 percent.

In the precinct of Langley 1, it passed with 82 percent of the vote. In Langley 2, it earned 80 percent. Other precincts where it won in a landslide were Sandy Point (73 percent), Saratoga 1 (75 percent), Saratoga 2 (73 percent), Coles (71 percent) and Lone Lake (70 percent).

Overall, South Whidbey voters passed the measure with 67 percent of the vote, or 2,609 votes.

On Central Whidbey, it passed in 10 of 11 precincts. It received its greatest support in Lagoon Point (69 percent), and was rejected by voters in San de Fuca (60 percent “no”).

It passed by 909 votes on Central Whidbey, or 59 percent of the vote.

In Oak Harbor-area precincts, R-71 was a mixed bag, passing in three of the area’s 24 precincts; Westview, Oak Harbor 1 and Oak Harbor 5. It was rejected by a margin of 804 votes, with a 57 percent “no” vote.

A majority in each of the 10 North Whidbey precincts rejected R-71, with 58 percent voting “no.” It was defeated by a margin of 581 votes.

And in the 18 precincts on Camano Island, voters in 11 precincts shot down the measure, which was rejected by 51 percent, or a margin of 231 votes.

I-1033

I-1033, another Eyman initiative to cut government spending, was rejected in the county, 53 percent to 46 percent.

It was also rejected statewide, 57-41 percent.

The proposal was shot down in every South End precinct, and was rejected in every Central Whidbey precinct except San de Fuca.

In Oak Harbor-area precincts, it passed in only 10 of 24 precincts.

Carruthers, the county GOP chairman, said he was unsure why the proposal went down to defeat in north Island County.

“I think that sometimes when you have an initiative which is restrictive, voters would rather it come from the Legislature. That’s just my guess because, economically it was a sound idea,” he said.

The initiative found favor with voters on North Whidbey. It passed by a majority in every precinct, reaching a high mark of 59 percent in Polnell.

I-1033 also won majorities in all but two Camano Island precincts; Camano 2 and Utsalady 2.

Sno-Isle levy

Sno-Isle Libraries’ proposed property tax increase passed countywide by a 52-47 percent decision.

It was approved by double-digit margins in all but one South End precinct (passing 54-45 in Double Bluff) and passed by 2,040 votes.

It was rejected, however, in five Central Whidbey precincts; Central, San de Fuca, Admiralty 1, Coveland and North Bluff. Overall, it passed on Central Whidbey by 279 votes.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory, director of Sno-Isle Libraries, said there may have been some library-measure fatigue on the part of voters in Central Whidbey, who passed a bond last year to pay for a new library in Coupeville.

“I think that really affected their vote,” she said.

The levy also passed in six Oak Harbor-area precincts, but fell overall with 54 percent of voters saying “no.” It was also shot down on North Whidbey, with a 60-percent “no” vote, failing to find a majority in any precinct.

On Camano, it was also rejected - by just two votes out of 6,526 cast.

Port of S. Whidbey

The race for Position 2 on the Port of South Whidbey was this November’s closest.

Chris Jerome edged Dean Enell by 83 votes.

Jerome was ahead with 50.75 percent of the vote, or 2,817 votes, to Enell’s 49.25 percent showing (2,734 votes) in the last vote tally.

Jerome won 10 of the South End’s 20 precincts; Enell took the other half.

Jerome won the precincts on the eastern shore of the South End, from Clinton north to the south side of Langley.

He also won two precincts on Langley’s western edge, and won precincts south of Freeland.

Jerome was ahead in the precincts of Austin, Clinton, Deer Lake, Sandy Point, Saratoga 1, Useless Bay 1, Double Bluff, Coles, and Langley 1 and 2.

Enell got the most votes in the precincts of Freeland, Glendale, Maxwelton 1, Lone Lake, Bush Point 1, Possession, Saratoga 2, Maxwelton 2, Useless Bay 2 and Bush Point 2.

The two battled to a near draw in a handful of precincts, however.

Enell was victorious in Useless Bay 2 by just one vote, with 45 votes to Jerome’s 44. Enell also won Possession Precinct by two votes (116-114), and took Maxwelton 2 by five votes (72-67). Jerome won Deer Lake by a five-vote margin (208-203) and finished seven votes in front of Enell in Saratoga 1 (160-153).

Jerome’s strongest support came in the Clinton precinct, with 59 percent of the vote. He won every precinct along the coast, from Clinton north to the eastern edge of Holmes Harbor.

Enell earned his strongest showing in Maxwelton 1, with 58 percent of the vote.

While Jerome, a Langley resident, took the two precincts in the Village by the Sea by a 60-vote margin, he largely won the race by breaking Enell’s dominance in the Freeland-area precincts.

Enell is well-known in Freeland. He was one of the prime organizers of the incorporation effort and a longtime volunteer in land-use planning efforts for the South End’s commercial hub.

Jerome, however, won Useless Bay 1 - the precinct that surrounds Deer Lagoon and is home to the Useless Bay Colony - with 55 percent of the vote. Jerome also won Austin Precinct, which lies just south of Freeland and includes most of the voters along Cameron, Woodward and Fish roads, plus the neighborhoods south of Bush Point Road.

Surprisingly, Jerome didn’t doorbell in the race or call voters during the campaign.

“The main reason I didn’t, I personally don’t like to have unsolicited phone calls, and door-belling. It was just not something I wanted to do,” he said.

As in previous elections, most voters in Island County waited until the final week before casting their ballots.

According to a review of ballot return numbers by date, more than half of the 27,829 ballots counted so far were returned in the last week before Election Day. Island County received more than 10,800 ballots on Monday, Nov. 2, Election Day and Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Enell said one mistake he made in the nail-biter race was calling an end to his campaign too soon. He took down his campaign signs the afternoon of Election Day, when people were still voting.

“I took them down, not realizing, for example, the Freeland voting place they have at Trinity that was open until 8 o’clock,” Enell said. “That wasn’t my smartest move.”

In the other port race, for Position 3, Curt Gordon won 19 of 20 precincts on the South End, falling short in only the Langley 2 precinct.

Gordon had 51 percent of the vote, compared with 32 percent for Mona Newbauer, and 9 percent for Ed Jenkins. Gordon had a comfortable lead of 1,077 votes, or 3,025 total, to Newbauer with 1,948 and Jenkins with 577.

Gordon did best in Austin (59 percent), while Newbauer won in Langley 2 (45 percent), and Jenkins performed best in Useless Bay 2 (20 percent).

Gordon, who lost in a four-way race for county commissioner last year, said he took late voters into account.

“Never underestimate or presume. The voters will always surprise you,” Gordon said.

“It’s a big deal,” he said of the propensity of county voters to hang onto their ballots until the final hour.

“That means you have to start campaigning when the ballots come out and you have to campaign hard until the very last Tuesday,” he said.

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