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Northweast election roundup

GMO labeling failing in Wash.

SEATTLE (AP) — A Washington state ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods is failing in early returns.

The campaign over Initiative 522 has been one of the costliest initiative fights in state history, drawing millions of dollars from out of state.

The measure was failing 45 percent to 55 percent with more than 980,000 ballots counted Tuesday night.

“We’re delighted with the vote tonight,” said Dana Bieber, a spokeswoman for the No on 522 campaign. Voters “gave a clear message. The more they looked at the initiative the less they liked it.”

But labeling supporters weren’t conceding.

“This is far from over and we have several days of vote counting ahead,” said Delana Jones, campaign manager for the Yes on 522 campaign, noting that thousands of ballots in liberal-leaning King County had not yet been counted. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Voters in Washington, which has a vote-by-mail system, must postmark their ballots by Tuesday so more ballots are left to count.

If voters approve I-522, Washington would be the first state to put in place labeling requirements for genetically modified foods.

SeaTac $15 wage bill passing

SEATTLE (AP) — A national push to create a $15 minimum wage found a new source of momentum Tuesday as an initiative on the issue built an early lead in the airport city of SeaTac.

An early vote count showed the measure carrying 54 percent of the vote. Because Washington state votes entirely by mail and ballots only need to be postmarked by Tuesday, more ballots are left to count.

The campaign in SeaTac drew national attention from both labor unions and business groups, with the two sides combining to spend $1.8 million — enough money to hire every registered voter in the city for a day at $15 per hour. It followed a series of summertime rallies in which fast food workers and others around the country called attention to their struggle to earn a living.

Voters reject initiative on initiatives

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Voters in Washington state on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have expanded the rights of initiative signature gatherers.

With more than 950,000 ballots counted, about 60 percent of voters were rejecting Initiative 517 in early returns. Because of the state’s vote-by mail system, counties will be updating their numbers daily throughout the week.

The measure would have required that voters be allowed to have their say on any proposal that qualifies for the ballot, even if a lawsuit has been filed against it. The initiative also would have given supporters a year, instead of the current six months, to collect signatures, and it would have made it a misdemeanor to interfere with the signature-gathering process.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman filed I-517 last year just weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled that city laws allowing for red light traffic cameras are not subject to repeal by voters. Business groups and others had lined up in opposition to the measure, saying the proposal will affect their ability to deal with nuisances outside of their stores.

Curry County rejects safety levy

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Voters in Curry County have rejected a $3.2 million public safety tax increase that would have tripled local property taxes to restore law enforcement services cut as the federal government ends timber subsidies.

County Commission Chairman David Brock Smith said Wednesday he will call the governor’s office to talk about whether an emergency declaration is needed to prop up county finances.

A new state law gives the governor and county commissioners authority to jointly declare a public safety emergency if voters refuse to support minimum services. An emergency declaration allows commissioners to impose a surcharge on an existing tax to cover half the budget gap, and the state would pick up the rest.

The earliest commissioners could vote on the issue is Thursday.

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