Affirmative action, car tabs, a constitutional amendment, and local races on the ballot this November

King County voting drop box

It’s election season again, and while no state or federal representatives are being chosen, the Bellevue City Council has four chairs up for grabs and a lot of important issues are still at play as ballot initiatives.

The first and foremost of these is I-1000, which would allow affirmative action in Washington State. Under I-1000, Washington officials would be allowed to attempt to level the playing field (at the discretion of hiring managers/admissions officers, and without quotas) for disadvantaged groups based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status by giving members of those groups special consideration for college admissions and public employment.

 According to the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the foremost organizations in support of the initiative, “Affirmative action is one of the most effective tools for redressing the injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women, and for leveling what has long been an uneven playing field.”

The Reject Referendum 88 campaign, on the other hand, claims on their website that, “We need solutions that bring us together. But Referendum 88 (also known as Initiative 1000) would create more division by allowing the government to inject race into college admissions and government employment. That’s wrong. And it would drive us further apart.”

I-1000 is the initiative you’ve probably seen signs or received mail about—affirmative action is always a controversial topic and this measure will have serious impacts for many years to come.

            The other major statewide ballot measure is Initiative 976, which would cap motor-vehicle license fees at $30 per year (current fees are about $254 for a 2012 Prius and about $575 for a 2018 Volt). This measure pops up on the ballot every once in a while, thanks in part to the efforts of Tim Eyman, who has been continually trying to remove higher license fees on more expensive cars since 1999. According to Steve Mullin, the President of the Washington Roundtable, the initiative would “devastate” public transit and harm our ability to keep our roads and bridges maintained. Eyman on the other hand, points to what he claims is a “huge 3.5 billion tax surplus,” though whether or not one will actually exist is unclear.

            Importantly, there is also a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 would allow the government additional emergency powers in the case of a “catastrophic incident.” These emergency powers include the ability to rapidly move the seat of government, fill vacant positions, or quickly pass new laws to keep the government running. The argument for the amendment posted in the Washington State voter’s pamphlet claims that the amendment is “essential for us to prepare for incidents such as the inevitable Cascadia earthquake,” while the opposing  argument claims that the changes lack “clear definitions” and that the amendment “may hurt you when you need it the most.”

Finally, the state ballot includes a number of advisory votes on new taxation measures that do not change the law but advise legislators on whether the tax increases are supported by the people, as well as two judicial nominees running unopposed.

            King County is holding elections as well, with active races for Director of Elections and two Port Commissioner positions, as well as a measure to continue funding for Medic One services in King County via a property tax, for which no statement in opposition was submitted.

            Depending on your residence, you will also be able to vote on a number of other local government officials, school district board members, and local levies, so check the voter pamphlet you received in the mail or an election information site such as for more information on those.

            Here in Bellevue, City Council members Jennifer Robinson and John Stokes, both longtime incumbents, are facing new challenges. Stokes, who intends to continue his work on affordable housing, faces a challenge from newcomer Holly Zhang who is advocating for term limits, subsidized child care, and lifting restrictions on renting. Jennifer Robinson, who focuses on public transportation faces her challenge in James Bible, who is campaigning to raise the minimum wage as Seattle and Tacoma have done.

            For seat three, Jeremy Barksdale focuses on making the city more affordable for people with incomes less than $105,000 and Stephanie Walter is attempting to make sure seniors can stay in their homes despite property tax increases. Finally, in seat five, Janice Zhan is heavily endorsed on the back of a campaign to make sure housing is affordable and commuting is easy before Amazon arrives in the city in four years. Meanwhile, Y.D. Yu is looking to reduce congestion in the city through new technology such as autonomous electric vehicles.

            Thanks to a number of local efforts, such as the recent implementation of same-day voter registration last summer, voting in Washington is easier than ever. If you are already registered to vote, you should have received a ballot in the mail that you can fill out and return or place in a ballot drop box, which you can find at these locations. If you are not registered to vote, you can do so at the King County Elections Office located at 919 Southwest Grady Way in Renton. Online registration is also available, but the deadline to do so has already passed. If you need a ballot because yours was lost or delivered to the wrong address, you can fill out and print a replacement ballot here.

            Drop boxes will close tomorrow at 8 p.m. and mailed ballots must be postmarked by tomorrow (Nov. 5).