Clark County's Nov. ballot filled to bursting

With advisory votes and a slew of races, it may be biggest ever

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Freeholder candidates

Candidates for freeholder shrunk from 123 to 110 on Monday as 13 individuals pulled out of the race. For a full list of candidates, visit http://www.clarkvotes.org

Clark County voters will have 11 advisory questions and more than 100 candidates for public office to choose from come the November general election.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, whose office is in charge of county elections, says there are so many names and issues that it may be record-setting.

"We won't really have it figured out until the end of this week, but I have been saying it will be the biggest ballot the voters in Clark County have ever seen," Kimsey said.

Last week, more than 100 residents filed for 15 freeholder positions. Those freeholders will draft a new county charter for voters to eventually decide on. If approved, a charter would alter the way in which the county government operates.

Earlier this month, Clark County commissioners decided to put six advisory votes on the ballot.

Three of the questions ask voters if they favor an Interstate 5 replacement bridge, a new bridge to the east or a new crossing to the west. Voters will get the chance to vote up or down on each issue.

Two of the advisory votes will ask if commissioners should oppose light rail and bus-rapid transit projects.

The final vote will ask voters if they want to limit use of fireworks to July 4.

Five statewide advisory votes will also be offered up to voters. Each of those will ask voter opinion on the state's budget increases.

Dave Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman's office, said those questions will be presented as part of a mandate from Initiative 960.

All 11 advisory votes are nonbinding.

And depending on where a voter lives, they'll get to vote for city councilors, school district board members, fire commissioners and other junior board positions.

The city of Washougal is even floating a measure asking citizens what type of city council structure they want running the town.

And with that many items to vote on, it's likely the county will see races where folks simply don't cast a vote as they grow weary of the process.

"We would often see where voters would vote for some of the higher offices, like mayor or city council, and then kind of bag it," said former Secretary of State Sam Reed. "Particularly with freeholders. Even with all the information out there, (people) still might not know what a freeholder is."

Reed served 12 years as Washington's secretary of state, and 23 years as auditor of Thurston County. In his years as auditor, he watched two freeholder elections take place.

"In the odd years, it's more likely (voters) vote in a mayor's race or city council … but once you get beyond that, even for school board or fire district, it will drop off," Reed said. "It is asking a lot of the voters, but I think it is extremely important."

The massive ballot also creates logistical concerns for the county.

With so many issues and candidates to be included on each ballot, Kimsey said there is concern that two pages will be required for the ballot. That layout introduces concerns such as partially returned ballots, and awkward voter return counts.

"We hope we won't have to do that," Kimsey said. "We may go to an 11-by-17-inch double sided ballot, as we'd rather not do two pieces of paper."

The voter's pamphlet is also likely to be huge in scope. Mailed out in advance of the ballot, and filled with candidate profiles and for and against statements, the pamphlet is estimated to come in around 96 pages.

Further, Kimsey's office is considering ways to keep weight down on ballots as most will be returned by mail. If the ballots are too bulky, they may require extra postage.

The total cost of the epic ballot to the county is currently estimated at $211,000.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com