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Recapping the August Ballot Measures

It’s been a busy month here at MRSC, so I’m a little behind on posting the ballot measure results from the August 2 primary election. There were 67 local ballot measures this time around - not counting school districts, which MRSC doesn’t track - and all the results have been certified. I’ll be adding these to our Local Ballot Measure Database, but without further ado, here are some of the highlights:

1 Criminal Justice Sales Tax Passes, 2 Fail

Two criminal justice sales taxes narrowly failed in Snohomish County. The first, in Marysville, would have hired five new officers to keep up with population growth. A second, countywide measure to help address the opioid epidemic fell just short. Snohomish County has one of the highest heroin and opioid death rates in the state, and the money would have been used in part to hire more sheriff’s deputies and support drug treatment programs. Without the extra revenue, the sheriff’s department may be facing 3% budget cuts next year.

Voters in Grays Harbor County approved a 0.3% sales and use tax for criminal justice purposes.

Voters Reverse Course in Normandy Park, Brewster

In Normandy Park, voters changed their minds and overwhelmingly approved a 6-year levy lid lift to restore funding to the police and other basic city services. A similar measure failed last November, causing the city to make significant budget cuts that fell especially hard on the police department. After the defeat, some citizens even launched a crowdfunding campaign to help offset the cuts. Total turnout was a little higher this time around, and the results marked a complete turnaround: over 70% supported the lid lift, compared to just 44% in November.

Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster had two measures on the ballot to upgrade its facilities; a levy lid lift passed and an excess levy failed. (Both received a majority, but the excess levy failed to meet the required 60% threshold.) Two identical measures failed last November. Turnout was slightly higher this time, and both measures gained a few percent in support.

Mixed Results for Large Capital Projects in Eastern WA

A proposal to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick and add new entertainment venues narrowly failed. The project would have cost an estimated $35 million, funded by a 20-year, 0.2% public facilities district sales and use tax. It’s the third time in recent years that voters in the Tri-Cities have rejected a PFD sales tax, following an earlier attempt to expand the convention center and a proposal to build a regional aquatic center in Pasco, both of which failed in 2013.

In Airway Heights, voters approved a 30-year, $13 million bond measure to build an aquatic and fitness center.

In nearby Liberty Lake, a 30-year, $12 million bond measure to construct a town square – including a swimming pool, library, and event space – fell short of the required 60% threshold.

Seattle Voter Initiative Overwhelmingly Defeated

The only voter initiative on the ballot – a proposal to establish a public development authority in Seattle and rebuild part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct as an elevated park – was soundly defeated with just 17% of the vote. It would have thrown a wrench into the city’s ongoing waterfront redevelopment plans, and the initiative was widely opposed by city leaders and community organizations.

Other Selected Results…

Anything Else?

Are there any other noteworthy measures that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below or by contacting me directly at

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About Steve Hawley

Steve joined MRSC in July 2014 and is responsible for writing, editing, and conducting research for many of MRSC’s website resources, with a particular focus on local government finance, budgeting, ballot measures, and procurement. He has a broad communications and public policy background with over a decade of local government and nonprofit experience.