Opponents of Proposition 1 seeking hand recount of election returns

by Jack Mayne

A full hand recount has been requested after the King County Election Department certified the SeaTac Proposition 1 measure with a bare majority of 77 votes out of 6,003 verified votes counted.

The final figure from elections on Tuesday afternoon was yes, 3,040 and no, 2,963.

Common Sense SeaTac, the largely business supported opposition to the measure, went on record asking for the recount shortly before the official certification of the final vote. There are 95 unverified ballots outstanding, as well as potentially questionable decisions on ballots counted despite having some form of error, such as the wrong color ink use or “X’s” instead of filled in voting spots, or signatures that may not match the signatures on record.

Also like to continue are lawsuits to stop the measure by declaring it illegal under state law. The first action expected is a move to have a court hold the measure in abeyance while legal action wends it way through the courts.

Hand, not machine recount
“When an election is this close, everyone should be assured the outcome is as certain as possible,” said Scott Ostrander, co-chair of Common Sense SeaTac. “If there’s one thing we all learned from the 2004 recounts of the governor’s race, counting ballots has a margin of error like any other human endeavor. And we learned, too, recounts can change the result. So we are asking for a hand count of the ballots to get the most accurate possible count.”

Gary Smith, of the consultancy Stark and Smith, said there were more votes cast on Proposition 1 than in any other off-year election in SeaTac history.

“While the ‘yes’ side led on election night by 54 percent, the ‘no’ side led the subsequent counts by 53.4 percent,” Smith said. “Voters in SeaTac considered Proposition 1 the most compelling reason to vote by far – marking it on 98.6 percent of all ballots.

He said the campaign over the initiative might also be the most expensive per-vote-earned in state history.

“The union-led ‘yes’ campaign raised more than $1.4 million, while the business-led ‘no’ campaign raised less than half that amount,” he said. “Although final reports are not in, if expenses match money raised, the unions will have spent about $460 per vote earned, versus about $225 by the ‘no’ campaign. By comparison, the campaign against statewide initiative 522 on labeling genetically modified food spent about $37 per vote earned – about one-twelfth the amount the unions spent promoting their wage and benefits measure in SeaTac.”

He said voters against the initiative were concerned “it would put hurt the city economically by reducing jobs and tax revenues, constraining future growth, burdening taxpayers with enforcement costs, and hurting local small businesses” because 90 percent of the workers expecting to benefit “did not live within the city of SeaTac, so benefits, if any, would be dispersed elsewhere.”

Supporters ask lawsuits be stopped
Proposition 1 supporters held a press conference Tuesday morning at which “airport employees, voters, and community leaders” declared “victory on SeaTac Proposition 1, which is now more than 1 point ahead in the vote count,” said Heather Wiener, spokesperson for the Yes side, before the final voter certification.

“Leaders (called) on record-profit making airport corporations to withdraw their lawsuit to block the voters’ decision to bring back good jobs to SeaTac and boost the local economy by $54 million,” Weiner said. “Proposition 1 comes amid record passenger traffic at the airport. More than 33 million passengers passed through Sea-Tac last year, up 1.2 percent from 2011. Year-to-date through August, the number of passengers boarding planes at Sea-Tac rose 4.7 percent from the same period in 2012.”

Council member is ‘concerned’
Newly reelected SeaTac Councilmember Pam Fernald said Tuesday she is concerned that “our taxpayers and businesses … will bear the brunt of the divisive Proposition 1.

“I am deeply disappointed that outside organizations and agitators saw fit to use certain employees who hold minimum wage jobs in the city of SeaTac, certain segments of the SeaTac business community and the city of SeaTac itself, as a social experiment for their own questionable agenda,” Fernald said.

“Minimum wage campaigns need to be done at a level that affects all employees – not just targeted segments of labor, in only one city, as this extreme, shortsighted and misguided proposition has done. For me, the foundation of equity and fairness attached to this ill-conceived proposition does not compute.

“Time will tell,” she said.


Most expensive city election
Figures filed with the state show that both sides raised $2,070,000 and spent $1,803,000 trying to convince SeaTac residents to vote one way or the other on Proposition 1.

Despite the record amount of money, just over half of the registered SeaTac actually marked their ballots, the figures gathered by Earl Gipson showed. Of the 12,108 registered voters, only 6,104 people, or 50.42 percent, actually did vote. That is a slightly higher percentage than the divisive 2011 city council election, where 49.94 percent of the then-10,268 registered voters cast ballots.

The union supporters of the $15 wage and strict hiring and rehiring rules spent $1,284,000 of the $1,405,000 they raised. Opponents spent 40 percent less money, or $519,000 of the $665,000 they collected.

Both sides together spent $300.45 on each of the 6001 SeaTac voters who cast ballots. The “Yes” side spent more than twice the amount on each voter, $213.96, versus $86.49 each spent by the “No” side.

Gipson was critical of the way the campaign against the initiative was conducted. He said it failed to include SeaTac residents who were veterans of past SeaTac elections, that it failed to translate mailers into multiple languages spoken in the city and failed to realize the impact of 1,840 new city voters, amongst other objections.

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