Weighted Ballots for Habitat Enhancement District Election

 

Krist Novoselic

March 30, 2010

 

The election for the Grays River Habitat Enhancement District board will be on Tuesday, April 27th. There has not been an election for quite some time and I’m finding that many are unaware of the way the district conducts the voting.

 

It appears the rules for the election are set up with landowners and taxpayers in mind. School funding levies used to have a sixty percent threshold to pass – the intention was to provide a balance for citizens who pay the property taxes. Instead of a supermajority threshold, voters in the district will have weighted ballots. Ballots are distributed according to how much land the taxpayer owns. It resembles corporate elections where shareholders cast a ballot that’s weighted according to how much stock they own.

 

Every property owner in the district is granted two votes. Then, according to RCW 85.08.025 –

 

Each qualified voter of a diking improvement or drainage improvement district who owns more than ten acres of land within the district shall be entitled to two additional votes for each ten acres or major fraction thereof located within the district, up to a maximum total of forty votes for any voter, or in the case of community property, a maximum total of twenty votes per member of the marital community.

 

A corporation, partnership, or government entity can also vote. They need to designate a “natural person” to cast their ballots. This means the Grange can vote! Grange by-laws strictly forbid endorsing candidates, so Grangers need to think about if and how to proceed.

 

Because of the unique election rules, I’m told that there will be no mail ballots. A single polling location will be at Johnson Park on that Tuesday. County Auditor Diane Tischer will announce details and any provisions for absentees soon.

 

In closing, this election conjures two prominent phrases from the American vernacular. One might think that weighted ballots are a violation of One Person, One Vote. Another might believe the system protects against Taxation Without Representation. Each is seeking equal protection and what you think is fair can be a matter of your own self-interest.