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Educators disappointed by low voter turnout

POULSBO — Educators in the North Kitsap School District are disappointed that voter turnout was so low on election day.

Forty-four percent of registered voters voted in the North Kitsap election March 12. That’s an eleven percent drop from last year’s bond election, which drew almost 55 percent of registered voters.

More surprising, the numbers of voters in this year’s levy election were also lower than that of the district’s 1998 levy vote, which drew 53.68 percent of the voters.

Nick Jewett, who is a co-chair of North Kitsap Citizens For Quality Schools, was working the phones on election day, reminding voters that the gray, rainy Tuesday was indeed an election day.

Jewett was less concerned about the people who voted “no” on the levy than those voters who didn’t vote at all.

“The people who didn’t vote ... I find that incredible,” said Jewett. “We have a responsibility as voters.”

The March 12 election confirmed a trend that has been evident in North Kitsap and elsewhere; more voters voting by absentee ballot.

The count at press time revealed that 9,768 voters had sent absentee ballots, while only 994 voted at the polls.

That’s a dramatic drop from 1998, when there were 2,342 votes cast at the polls.

Educators have several ideas as to why the turnout was low.

One reason was the gray, rainy weather that probably kept some voters in their houses after work: “It wasn’t a good day to go to the polls,” said school board member Dick Endresen. Other voters believed the election was all-absentee, because two recent elections, the charter and the bond, were held by mail only.

School board member Catherine Ahl and Jewett said that some voters were confused as to the day of the election; Jewett expresses regret that the date wasn’t well-publicized enough. And still more voters may have been overconfident due to the levy success in 1998 and the bond passage last year.

Ahl, who like other volunteers spent time on the telephone reminding voters that it was election day, heard that last reason several times.

“The other comment I heard was that no one was worried about it,” she said. “They said, ‘I didn’t vote, but sure it’s going to pass.’”

As it turns out, the levy does seem sure to pass, but only by a handful of votes (about 45).

No matter how the voters vote, Ahl would like to see more of them at the polls, or see more of them register as permanent absentee.

She isn’t happy that only 44 percent of voters filed their vote.

“It’s such an important issue,” she said. “You hear how people are tired of taxes, but what this says is that almost 60 percent (of the voters) don’t care one way or the other.”

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