November 9, 2022
San Juan County voters reject ranked choice voting, spending measures
Nancy DeVaux

After early counting, the challenger led the incumbent in the race for the office of San Juan County sheriff—but more votes remained to be counted. The sheriff’s position was the only contested race on this year’s midterm ballot, but voters decided several funding issues and charter amendment proposals. (Kathryn Wheeler photo © 2022)

November 9, 2022
San Juan County voters reject ranked choice voting, spending measures
Nancy DeVaux

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[Updated Nov. 10, 2022]

San Juan County kept its strong Democratic base, as evidenced by Sen. Patty Murray receiving 72.8% of the vote (second only to King County’s 74.22%)—but a clear message from the electorate showed concerns about rising taxes. 

All four charter amendments failed, including ranked choice voting. The amendments were the subject of controversy in August when the Island County Superior Court required the county to put the amendments on the ballot (“Court rules: San Juan County to vote on charter amendments,” Salish Current, Aug. 18, 2022).

The proposal for ranked choice voting received national attention, but locally drew little interest. San Juan Island resident Bill Weissinger liked it “on a statewide basis, looking at Alaska in this election, for instance.” One positive he saw is that because the candidates might pick up votes from a second or third place, they are less likely to want to alienate voters. This could eliminate some of the nastiness, in theory. 

As far as the election in San Juan County, however, Weissinger said he would vote against it. He said he was influenced by the statement in the voters’ pamphlet that, “since the state has not approved ranked choice voting, we can’t be exactly sure how it will work.” 

Peggy Sue McRae of Friday Harbor supported the proposal: “Ranked choice voting gives each voter a stronger voice and each candidate a fair chance. It provides a path away from the extreme polarization that has made our politics so toxic.”

 The proposal received 42.88% support. 

The charter amendment that would have reduced the number of signatures required for an Initiative or referendum received just 32% support.

Very low turnout

As of Wednesday, only 53.5% of registered voters had returned ballots (7,829 out of 14,635 total registered voters) with 950 additional ballots to be counted. Those ballots could bring the total to 60%. The last midterm election, in 2018, saw an 83.83% return. [Update Nov. 10, 2022: An additional 3,365 votes (far more than the estimated 950) were counted by 5 p.m. Thursday, increasing voter turnout to 76.49%. With another estimated 50 remaining ballots to count, turnout is approaching 2018 levels.]

On finance measures, a county road levy to maintain roads and marine facilities, repair storm damage and enhance roads for pedestrians and cyclists failed with, only 43.57% approval.

On San Juan Island, voters rejected a contentious measure to fund a new library. Opponents said the cost was too high and plans were not far enough along. “Yes” votes received only 41%.

The only local contested race was for sheriff. In early results today, challenger Eric Peter led incumbent Ron Krebs by 200 votes, with 950 additional ballots to be counted. [Update Nov. 10, 2022: In the race for sheriff, Eric Peter’s lead over incumbent Ron Krebs increased to 671 votes.]

County council candidate Jane Fuller and prosecuting attorney candidate Amy Vira won, running unopposed.

—Reported by Nancy DeVaux

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photo: Amy Nelson © 2022
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