Election analysis: Eastside cities largely voted against I-976

Most Eastside cities weren’t swayed by I-976, though more voters approved it than the county average.

Voters in King County soundly rejected Initiative 976, but on the Eastside, the results were much tighter.

Precinct voting information was published Nov. 8, and final results will be up by the end of the month. Preliminary results can shine some light on how voters in different Eastside cities were feeling about I-976. The initiative promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects as well as cutting into state road funds.

So let’s take a look at the numbers. This report should be read with the caveat that it’s only looking at voters in incorporated King County cities. A Google map of the results can be found here.

Several Eastside cities voted to approve I-976. They were largely cities that will see comparatively fewer investments from Sound Transit’s light rail rollout. The cluster of wealthy towns in west Bellevue also largely approved the initiative: Medina, Clyde Hill and Hunts Point all saw majorities vote to approve the initiative, while Beaux Arts Village voted to reject it.

The Snoqualmie Valley saw close races. Snoqualmie narrowly voted to reject I-976, with 760 voters approving it and 793 voting against it. A few miles to the east, North Bend saw 492 voters approving the initiative and 460 voting against it. Duvall approved the initiative 554 to 497, and in Carnation, the yes vote was winning by two votes, coming in 361 to 359.

The two largest cities that voted in favor of the initiative were Sammamish and Bothell. Outside of Bellevue, Sammamish had the highest number of voters casting ballots on I-976. Some 5,067 voters in Sammamish approved the initiative, netting some 700 votes more than those who voted no.

Bothell’s results were much tighter, with 4,697 votes going in favor of the initiative, while 4,223 rejected it. Woodinville also narrowly approved I-976, with 965 voting in favor and 877 voting against.

The rest of the Eastside voted no on the initiative. Bellevue saw 9,495 ballots cast in opposition, with 8,212 voting yes for it. Kirkland narrowly rejected the initiative with 5,996 votes, only 106 more than the yes position.

Kenmore saw 1,662 people voting yes, while 1,933 voted no. Issaquah had 2,485 voters approve the initiative compared to 2,698 who voted it down.

Opposition to I-976 was strong on Mercer Island, which has had residents vocally oppose the planned light rail station for a number of reasons. These include concerns over traffic, the fact that all Eastside buses currently heading to Seattle will stop on the island to transfer to light rail, and worries over crime. Mercer Island voters rejected I-976 with 3,596 votes, while 2,378 voted to approve it.

By this newspaper’s count, there was more than 77,000 Eastside city votes cast on I-976 on the November ballot. Some 48.43% of Eastside voters approved it, while 51.57% rejected it. In King County, 40.73% of voters approved the initiative, while 59.27% voted against it, according to the Washington state Secretary of State’s website. Statewide, 52.99% of voters approved the initiative, while 47.01% rejected it.

Seattle, South King County and beyond

In Seattle, some 31,601 voters approved I-976, compared to 85,395 who rejected it. Shoreline and Lake Forest Park both rejected the initiative with heavy majorities too.

This is in contrast to South King County cities, which all voted to approve I-976. Kent, for example, saw 7,564 voters approve the initiative, while 4,255 voted against it. That pattern held stead in most of Kent’s neighboring cities. Tukwila was the closes race, with the yes camp securing 892 votes while no clocked in at 756.

The results paint a picture of Seattle and north end voters outweighing south county voters, while the Eastside was a close race between the two camps.

King, Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan counties all saw majorities voting early against I-976. As of Nov. 11, Thurston and Island counties had been added to that list, with close races in Kitsap, Clallam and Whitman counties. Pierce and Snohomish counties both approved the initiative handily, as did most of the rest of the counties in the state.

Initiative 976 is the third Tim Eyman ballot car tab initiative that has been approved by voters in the past two decades. The first was I-695 in 1999. King, San Juan and Whitman counties voted against it, but it was approved by more than 56% statewide. It was later declared unconstitutional.

In 2002, voters in the state again approved a $30 car tab Eyman initiative in the form of I-776. It saw King, Kitsap, Jefferson, San Juan, Thurston and Whitman counties voting against it. The initiative was approved by 51.5% of voters across the state, but was later also invalidated.

Initiative 976 promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. File photo

Initiative 976 promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. File photo