I’m cautiously optimistic about this year’s two statewide ballot measures, expecting R-71 to pass, and I-1033 to fail, but when the numbers start coming in shortly after 8PM, I’ll be paying particular attention to the county-by-county results.
There’s little doubt that King County, with about a third of the state’s electorate, will vote overwhelmingly pro-gay and anti-Eyman, as will several other reliably liberal counties. So if the early numbers are even remotely close, it will be the results from the other side of the mountains that could provide the best predictor of the final outcome.
I simply don’t expect R-71 to lose big enough where it needs to lose big if the measure is to be defeated, thanks in large part to the strong libertarian streak that defines the western states. I’m not saying that Central and Eastern Washington aren’t majority conservative, just that there isn’t an overwhelming majority of conservatives out there who are particularly interested in denying rights to gays and lesbians. They may not like gays, and they certainly wouldn’t want their children to become one. But their lives are their lives, and all that.
One would think this same libertarian streak would bode well for Tim Eyman’s government drowning I-1033, but this is where personal self-interest comes into play. For as much as rural Washingtonians bask in their self-image of rugged independence, their limited tax base leaves them more dependent on state tax dollars than more populous regions of the state, and thus their communities would be disproportionately impacted by the inevitable cuts in state spending I-1033 would necessitate over time.
Already struggling to meet basic needs, I-1033 has received little support from local elected officials, even Republicans. And local voters are swayed by their local leaders.
So while I expect I-1033 to pass in the vast majority of counties, I don’t expect it to pass by nearly a large enough margin to offset its loss in King County. I’ll be looking to counties like Yakima, Chelan, Spokane and Benton as early bell-weathers for the other side of the state, comparing their results to that of 2007’s I-960. Here on our side of the mountains I’ll be paying close attention to populist Snohomish and Clark counties in anticipation of a possible shift onto the anti-Eyman side of the ledger.
I’d like to believe that there is less of an East/West divide than there’s often made out to be. And I’m cautiously optimistic that tonight’s election results will bear this out.