Elections Coordinator Betty Johnson and Julian Arthur work to verify signatures on ballots and check to see if they are marked properly. As of Friday, only 27 percent of ballots were returned in the special election that will decide two Port Townsend school levies and the annexation of Port Townsend into East Jefferson Fire Rescue District 1. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Elections Coordinator Betty Johnson and Julian Arthur work to verify signatures on ballots and check to see if they are marked properly. As of Friday, only 27 percent of ballots were returned in the special election that will decide two Port Townsend school levies and the annexation of Port Townsend into East Jefferson Fire Rescue District 1. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Ballot returns near 30 percent in special Jefferson election

PORT TOWNSEND — Ballot returns are lower than average for the special election on Tuesday, according to a Jefferson County election official.

Elections Coordinator Betty Johnson said voter turnout as of Friday was 29.99 percent, with 5,391 ballots returned out of 17,976 provided registered voters.

Voters will decide three measures: the proposed annexation of Port Townsend into the East Jefferson Fire Rescue District and two measures in the Port Townsend School District, both replacement levies — an educational programs and school support levy to replace one that will expire in December and a $3.625 million capital levy to replace one competed in 2016.

Both school measures would be collected over a three-year period. Both require simple majorities of 50 percent plus one to pass.

The annexation measure must be approved by the same simple majority in both the city of Port Townsend and in the East Jefferson Fire Rescue district which includes the unincorporated communities of Cape George, Chimacum, Irondale, Kala Point, Marrowstone Island and Port Hadlock.

The intention is to simplify fire services within Port Townsend, proponents say.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue now provides fire and emergency medical services in Port Townsend by contract. If the annexation is approved, then residents of Port Townsend would be qualified to serve as commissioners of the district. The district would be able to levy property taxes in the city and the maximum available city property tax levy would be reduced by the amount of the district property tax levy.

The replacement levy would support expenses not funded by the state such as library, arts, nutrition and wellness, special education, maritime programs and extracurricular activities.

Collected in 2020-2022, the estimated levy rate per $1,000 assessed value would be $1.08 in 2020, collecting $3.03 million; $1.12 in 2021, collecting $3.195 million; and $1.15 million in 2022, collecting $3.375 million, totalling $9.6 million.

The capital levy would be used to support construction, modernization and remodeling of school facilities.

Collected in 2020-22, the estimated levy rate per $1,000 of assessed value would be $0.45 in 2020, collecting $$1.25 million; $0.42 in 2021, collecting $1.2 million; and $0.40 in 2022, collecting $1.175.

For more on the school levies, see http://www.ptschools.org/levy.

Johnson said she has no idea why this election is not tracking with others in the past that have seen more than a 50 percent turnout. She’s hopeful that more ballots will come in Monday.

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to deposit their ballots at drop boxes located in Port Townsend behind the courthouse, in Nordland at the East Jefferson Fire Rescue Station 12, and at Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock.

A drop box also is in the county building hallway outside of the auditor’s office.

Ballots can be mailed, but Johnson said voters should take their ballots to the counter to be hand-cancelled if they are mailed on Tuesday.

“If they deposit it into one of the blue boxes after the last pick-up for that day, it won’t be cancelled until the next day and it won’t count,” she said. “If it doesn’t have a valid postmark, we won’t check the signature.”

Last month in a section of the city, some mail had been taken from boxes after it had been delivered. Johnson said ballots were included in the theft.

“Port Townsend police called us on Jan. 29 and told us they retrieved ballots and other mail that had been taken from mailboxes,” she said.

“The ballots had not been voted, they were just ballots that we mailed to people.”

Affected were residents in the areas of Cook Street, Cook Avenue, Cook Avenue Extension, West Hastings Avenue and Elm Street.

“Police contacted me and said they retrieved a lot of the ballots,” Johnson said. “They took them to the post office and they were re-delivered. A few people came in to get replacements.”

On Friday morning, Johnson and her team were continuing to verify signatures and opening envelopes to make sure the votes could be read by the tabulating machine. If filled out improperly, a ballot must be duplicated so the machine can read it.

To check to see if your ballot has been received go to www.myvote.wa.gov.

If you have not received a ballot or require another, contact the Auditor’s Office for a replacement ballot at 360-385-9119 or at the office in the courthouse at 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

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