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Ballots going in the mail starting today

Oct. 15, 2014 1:29 p.m.

Ballots are being mailed out to Washington voters starting today and Spokane County, which is sending out about 275,000 ballots, will mail them out over a two-day stretch through Thursday.

Most voters should have their ballots by the weekend, but the elections officials said that any registered voter who hasn't received a ballot by a week from Friday — that is, Oct. 24 — should call their local elections office. In Spokane County, that number is 509-477-2320. For contact information for other counties, click here.

Washington conducts its elections completely by mail, and while most voters have probably become accustomed to the ins and outs of the process, we'll repeat them for the newcomers:

Ballots must be marked, placed inside the security envelope, which is placed inside the mailing envelope, which must be signed and sealed. Registered voters can't combine ballots into a single envelope, they have to be returned separately.

Ballots can be mailed in or deposited in a drop box the county sets up in chosen locations. Spokane County has drop boxes at most libraries, and a few other spots. A list is inside the blog. For other counties locations, click here and select your county from the map.

A mailed ballot requires postage. A ballot placed in a drop box does not.

Ballots must be mailed so they are postmarked by Nov. 4, or dropped off before 8 p.m. that day. If you mail a ballot on Nov.4, it's usually a good idea to take it to the post office rather than leaving it for pickup in your own mailbox to make sure it is postmarked in time.

Voters who damage or lose their ballot can get a replacement by contacting the county Elections Office, or by going to a Voter Service Center on Election Day.

For a list of Spokane County drop boxes, check inside the blog.

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Spokane councilman plans public forum to discuss mayor, administration raises

Oct. 15, 2014 1:22 p.m. - Updated: 1:34 p.m.

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan said today he will host a public forum to talk about the proposed pay increases for Mayor David Condon and members of his administrative cabinet.

The mayor is poised to receive a $7,000 raise, bringing his annual pay to nearly $180,000. The increase is part of the mayor’s proposed 2015 city budget released last week. A majority of his cabinet members could also receive raises, including the police chief, fire chief, the head of the city's Community and Neighborhood Services department and more. 

The forum is scheduled to be held Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. at Spokane City Hall. Everyone is invited to come and speak their mind.

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In this corner …

Oct. 15, 2014 12:18 p.m. - Updated: 2:53 p.m.

The gloves are off in the 6th legislative district Senate race.

After trading jabs for the past few months, Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner and Democratic challenger Rich Cowan now are pummeling each other in a series of back-and-forth sound bites and other insults triggered by a new attack ad.

The salvo opened late last week with a misleading Cowan TV spot accusing Baumgartner of being a stooge for out-of-state corporations enjoying state tax breaks that siphon money away from Washington's school children.

Baumgartner quickly called foul on the claims, filed a complaint with the PDC over an apparent technical omission in the TV ad, and accused Cowan of being a hypocrite for owning a company registered out of state that benefits from millions in state tax breaks for the film industry.

“It's inaccurate, illegal and hypocritical,” Baumgartner said, explaining that Cowan's ads fail to include a spoken reference to his partisan affiliation: “He's trying to hide that he's a Democrat.”

The Cowan campaign fired back that Baumgartner talks a lot about supporting private business and bringing jobs to Spokane but doesn't appear to have ever owned his own business nor personally ever created a new job here — choosing instead to attack an established Spokane company that's actively bringing higher-wage jobs to the region.

“Mr. Baumgartner is trying to slander a beloved local business that has paid millions of dollars in Washington state taxes to deflect attention from the fact that he has failed to create jobs,” Cowan campaign manager Alex Clardy said.

Baumgartner, who holds a substantial fundraising advantage, has yet to unleash any TV attack ads, though he's got a shelf full of mostly image-building issue spots touting his Olympia accomplishments, including greater government efficiency and sustainable budgets.

Like the tax breaks spot, Cowan's repertoire of ads tend to be more adversarial and focused on potential wedge issues, which tends to be a standard strategy for campaigns looking to try closing double-digit gaps.

With ballots set to begin arriving in voter mailboxes later this week, the slugfest is likely to continue.


Stories on gun inits, congressional race drawing comments

Oct. 14, 2014 6:55 p.m.

People who say there's no passion in this year's mid-term elections don't read the online newspaper's comments. 

It's not really a surprise, but Sunday's story on the two gun control initiatives and Tuesday's story on the 5th Congressional District race are generating significant comments elsewhere on this website.

Of course, almost anything to do with gun control sets off passionate debate in the region. And between the low approval ratings for Congress and the strong partisan feelings that Democrats have for incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and the reciprocal regard Republicans have for any Democratic challenger, almost anything on the race can get the juices, and the comments, flowing.

Want to join the discussion? Be our guest.

The story on Initiatives 591 and 594 can be found here.

The story on the race between McMorris Rodgers and Joe Pakootas can be found here.


Legislators’ free meal limit: 12 per year

Oct. 14, 2014 4:02 p.m. - Updated: 4:41 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Legislators could accept as many as a dozen free meals from lobbyists each year under a new rule adopted by their ethics committee.
But in what could be described as only a partial victory for public accountability, their constituents will have no way of keeping track of those meals unless legislators agree to change state law next year. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

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Today’s fun video: Stewart tells Dems enough with the money grubbing

Oct. 14, 2014 11:45 a.m.


Anyone who has the misfortune to be on the national Democratic campaigns' e-mail list can relate to the incessant begging for money, supposedly from folks like President Obama, Vice President Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (but really from some hack at a computer in the campaign offices.)

Spin Control mentioned it a few months ago in a Sunday column. But Jon Stewart on The Daily Show did a particularly good job of exposing the money grubbing by folks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (which, by the way, hasn't spent a dime on the congressional campaign in Eastern Washington in years).

Maybe Democrats will take the hint, and those in power will tell the folks who probably used to work for Nigerian bankers looking to make deals to transfer large sums to my bank account to Knock. It. Off.



Elway Poll: Class-size measure has strong lead

Oct. 14, 2014 10:34 a.m. - Updated: 10:34 a.m.

An initiative that would require smaller classes in Washington's public schools has strong support among voters polled a month before election day.

Elway Research says two of three voters surveyed last week said they were either definitely or probably going to vote yes on Initiative 1351, which would require the Legislature to spend money to reduce class sizes in all public schools, but with an extra emphasis on schools in high poverty areas. 

Support for the measure was strong across demographic and political lines, pollster H. Stuart Elway said, although voters who said they are following this year's elections “very closely” were less inclined to say they planned to vote yes than those who said they were not paying attention at all.

“It is not entirely unprecedented for initiative support to collapse in the closing weeks of the campaign,” Elway said in the report detailing the survey's results. But in the three cases over the last 20 years in which it did, those  measures had organize opposition and I-1351 does not, he added.

To read more about the survey results, click on the document below. To read arguments for and against I-1351 from the state's Online Voter's Guide, click here. To check out coverage of I-1351 in The Spokesman-Review's Election Center, click here.


Elway Poll: Voters split on gun initiatives

Oct. 13, 2014 10:07 a.m. - Updated: 2:12 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Support for both gun initiatives on the November ballot is falling, but the proposal to expand background checks to most sales still has majority support, a new Elway Research poll says.

Three of five voters polled last week said they would definitely or probably vote for I-594, down from nearly three out of four voters polled in April.  Only about two of five said they would definitely or probably vote for I-591, a counter  measure that wouldn't allow Washington to change its background check laws unless a new national standard was set; it had support of 55 percent of those polled in April.

Elway Research polled 500 registered voters chosen at random across the state, by phone,  between Oct. 6 and Oct. 9. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. 

The 60 percent support for I-594 lines up with the 59 percent of people in the poll who said they believe background checks should be more extensive. 

Pollster H. Stuart Elway said the recent survey also indicates voters are more familiar with the two measures. In April, 40 percent of those surveyed said they planned to vote for both initiatives, even though they are basically in conflict. That has dropped to 22 percent.

Elway offered some caveats about polling on initiatives:

— When conflicting initiatives on the ballot confuse voters, they are apt to vote “no” on both. 

—Initiatives tend to lose support over time, although a 60 percent approval with three weeks to go has been enough for many measures in the recent past. “Under this theory, I-591 looks like a goner and the question is whether I-594 will hold on to enough of its 10-point cushion over the next three weeks to prevail,” he said. The mid-term election is expected to have a low turnout, with more conservative voters casting ballots, he added.

For more details, click on the document below.



Sunday Spin: Say what No. 2

Oct. 12, 2014 10:02 a.m.

Keeping track of legislative committees can be a chore for the public during the session, because some panels string several topics together and because the House and Senate have come up with different titles for groups with the same purview. Between sessions, even legislators have trouble.

Take last week, when two House committees held a joint session over problems with the state’s new legal marijuana businesses obtaining bank services.

Rep. Steve Kirby, chairman of the Business and Financial Services Committee, opened the first half of the session and noted he’d turn the gavel over to Rep. Chris Hurst, chairman of the other committee about half way through. But he couldn’t quite remember its name.

“I’ve never known the name. It’s a weird name and I don’t even worry about it,” Kirby said.

“You’re on the committee,” said Hurst.

True, said Kirby, but he still doesn’t know the name.

For the record, it’s the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. We sometimes call it the sin committee because it has jurisdiction over booze, pot and gambling.


Sunday Spin: Say what No. 1

Oct. 12, 2014 8:05 a.m.

Last week’s debate between U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas veered briefly into immigration policy, with both candidates being asked to address the topic in the context of the need for farm labor and secure borders.

Pakootas tossed off a line that would have passed as a overworked cliché for most people, but it got him a laugh.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” said the former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes deadpanned, then added: “Most of us, anyway.”

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