Time to scrap KCCD elections

For the first time since I learned about the King County Conservation District elections a few years back, the King County Conservation Voters endorsed candidate has finally won one of these bizarre, nearly secret elections. So congratulations to Max Prinsen, who topped runner-up Mara Heiman, 1,772 to 1,488.

So now that we’ve proven that pro-conservation forces can win an election that in recent years had proven the only race that KC Republicans could reliably count on, I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly suggest that we scrap this election entirely.

4,232 conscientious citizens cast ballots in yesterday’s election, better than 50% more than the 2,757 ballots cast in 2009… which in itself was a huge increase over previous years, when a mere few hundred votes was sometimes all that was needed to assure victory. But that’s still a tiny fraction of the roughly one million registered voters in King County.

So if we really can’t afford to piggyback the KCCD election onto a primary or general election ballot — when, you know, people actually vote — why even bother holding it? Two of the board’s five seats are already appointed by the three elected members, so why not just appoint them all? Maybe distribute the appointments geographically amongst the nine County Council members, so as to assure that rural voters receive adequate representation?

I know, I know… nobody votes for less democracy, but a countywide election with less than 1% turnout is a farce. It’s past time we admitted it, and eliminated the KCCD election all together.

Comments

  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Why should humans appoint any of them? After all, we critters are what’s being conserved! Let rabbits appoint one, squirrels appoint one, and give the other three to salmon, songbirds, and raccoons.

  2. 2

    Sera Burns spews:

    You didn’t get the result you wanted, so the whole system must be broken? Here’s how it really works: those who care enough actually vote. The world is run by people who show up. Conservation voters showed up. Get over it, or go back to your corner and pout.

  3. 4

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I was looking at the article, and something interesting was mentioned about the district itself. They were created as a result of the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was created in part due to destructive farming practices. A few years ago the History Channel did a good documentary on it called Black Blizzard. That is an experience many young people probably remember from The Grapes of Wrath if at all. Most of those who lived through it have or are passing on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl

  4. 5

    spews:

    Sera @2,… actually, I did get the result I wanted. For the first time. So I figured now would be the perfect time to propose scrapping the election, since nobody could accuse me of sour grapes. But I guess that was based on the assumption that people would actually read my post before commenting.

    It’s a stupid election that hardly anybody knows about, and virtually nobody participates in.

  5. 6

    Nindid spews:

    I asked in another thread why it was done this way and someone mentioned that the Seattle Times estimated that it would cost $1 million dollars to have the election with the rest of the elections on Nov 4.

    Now how the #$^% does adding one line to a mail-in ballot come up to an extra $1 million? Really?

  6. 8

    rhp6033 spews:

    Once again, may I point out the ridiculous of this western habit of voting for every position, including the dog-catcher?

    Elections like these, with extraordinarily low turnout, are easy for a small minority (like the King County Republican Party) to capture. One of the Republican strategies which helped them gain power in 1990’s and the 2000 election was to target such elections which they could then leverage into bigger wins elsewhere. For example, who cared who the Florida Secty of State was before Nov. 2000, yet she may have been the one person who most influenced the final outcome in that election, other than the Supreme Court justices.

    Likewise, in Texas the state Board of Education (elected positions) were targeted by the most radical right-wing elements of the Republican Party. The head of that Board recently indicated that he would approve school textbooks only if they reflected his own conservative values, including supporting the infallability of the church, the state of Israel, and Ronald Reagan. Why should we care? Because in Texas the state selects the schoolbooks for every school in the state, in other states it is done on a state-by-state basis. This means that schoolbook publishers cater to Texas when it comes to textbook publishing decisions, and the economies of scale indicate it is cheaper to buy the same schoolbook Texas uses than to buy another text. The result is that whatever textbook Texas chooses, becomes the textbook usually chosen by most of the other school districts in the nation.

  7. 9

    spews:

    Nindid @6 wonders:

    I asked in another thread why it was done this way and someone mentioned that the Seattle Times estimated that it would cost $1 million dollars to have the election with the rest of the elections on Nov 4.

    Now how the #$^% does adding one line to a mail-in ballot come up to an extra $1 million? Really?

    I suspect a logical error by either you or the Times (probably the latter, given their current level of journalistic fact-checking).

    If the KCD election takes place on its own, that $1 million figure just might be reasonably accurate. The entirety of the materials (cardstock, envelopes, ink), technology (mail-merge from the voter file, form-reader programming), and personnel (opening and separating, form feeding, signature checking) would be chargeable to KCD.

    But if this election were simply part of a regularly-scheduled one, the marginal cost of adding a text box to the ballots for the correct precincts (see below), programming the vote counter, and whatever else would surely be a small fraction of that cost.

    Apparently, parts of King County aren’t in the King County Conservation District. But accounting for that is no different from the task of creating ballots with a precinct’s appropriate list of candidates for Congress or LD or judicial district or sewer district or hospital district or…or…or…

  8. 10

    Sera Burns spews:

    What part of following got lost in the translation? “…those who care enough actually vote. The world is run by people who show up. Conservation voters showed up.”

    Here is an organization focused on their natural resource mission. Forcing an election on all voters won’t ipso facto result in a better outcome, because as evidenced by the relatively low turnout, most people just don’t care…at least not enough to come out and vote.

    Removing the opportunity for citizens to express their choice for conservation leadership in their community seems a little too Orwellian to me.

    People who care participate. Those are the ones I want involved, and involved so deeply they choose leaders and stand behind the mission.

    And yes, I did read the post first. It missed the point that this is a community-based organization being responsible with the public funds entrusted to it, yet still striving to engage citizens and provide opportunities for choice. I’d give them three thumbs up if I had that many.

    Take care, and thanks for all the fish :)

  9. 11

    spews:

    Sera @10,

    So it’s more democratic to hold an election in a way to assure as little participation as possible?

    FYI, this system has worked against conservation interests for years. But I suppose if you’re happy winning one out of five, stick with it.

  10. 12

    lebowski spews:

    @11…why does goldy hate democracy?

    It must be an east-coast thing – because he also hates the initiative process too.

    fascist much?

  11. 13

    Nindid spews:

    Thanks N… but unless the Times has it wrong than the $1 M figure is accurate.

    “If King County Elections took on the job, more people would know about Conservation District races, through voter pamphlets and ballots arriving in the mail. The trade off is cost.

    The King County Library System, which has significantly fewer eligible voters, will pay the county an estimated $1.5 million for last month’s levy vote.

    If conservation-district elections could be moved to the less-expensive November ballot, they would cost around $1 million, said Sean Bouffiou, county Records and Licensing Services finance administrator.”

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....on14m.html

  12. 14

    Jarvis spews:

    @9 makes an excellent point. There is virtually no marginal cost to adding one more ballot item to the primary and/or general election ballots happening later in the year. Charging $1 million plus to all these little public service districts is just a shakedown by KC Elections Division. It’s absurd.

  13. 15

    rhp6033 spews:

    Of course, if you have enough “special elections” which require actual voter turnout at a polling location, you virtually assure that a good number of the working-class will have to decide which elections in which they can participate, and which ones they cannot. It’s not simply a question of “careing”, it’s also about job schedules, commuting schedules, child care, etc.

    Back when I worked in downtown Seattle and took the bus to/from Lynnwood each day, I missed quite a few elections because the polls weren’t open before I went to work, and as soon as I arrived back in Lynnwood I had to pick up the kids at day care, get them home and fed, etc. before even thinking about getting to the polls. Often it simply wasn’t possible to get there before the polls closed.

  14. 16

    spews:

    Hi Goldy.

    I support having these conservation district elections administrated by the County Auditor (or Department of Elections in King County), just like all other elections.

    It’s weird that the CDs admin their own elections.

    Toby Nixon weighed in on this issue a few years ago. If I recall, as a state rep, he looked into mainstreaming these elections. But cost was the hurdle.

    The cost of elections are apportioned to the jurisdictions. I still don’t have a grasp of costs (long story), so I’ll just guess that a KCCD election would cost $300,000. Well, that’d be a huge chuck (if not all) of a CD’s yearly budget.

    So Nixon determined that the state would have to pay for these elections. And there’s no support for additional costs at this time.

    I hope Nixon comments, and corrects anything I got wrong (or forgot).

  15. 17

    spews:

    N in Seattle @ 9

    It may not be that simple.

    None of us know the marginal costs. I tried to. But couldn’t get the budgets and expenditures without lawyering up. (Maybe I’ll try again in the future.)

    And, I’m sorry to admit, I don’t know the formula for apportioning election administration costs to the jurisdictions.

  16. 19

    TJ spews:

    Goldy – I don’t disagree with your premise. But just to be clear, it’s called the King Conservation District, not King Co. Conservation District. KCD is fully independent of King County, and it’s borders do not match those of King Co. Many south county cities, including the 3rd largest in the county (Federal Way) are not part of King Conservation District.

  17. 20

    spews:

    TJ @19:

    Goldy – I don’t disagree with your premise. But just to be clear, it’s called the King Conservation District, not King Co. Conservation District. KCD is fully independent of King County, and it’s borders do not match those of King Co. Many south county cities, including the 3rd largest in the county (Federal Way) are not part of King Conservation District.

    So what? In primary and general elections, King County Elections has to create a custom ballot for every single precinct in the county. Determining whether to place a KCD section on a specific precinct’s ballot is no different from deciding whether to place a section for a sewer district or school district or water district or hospital district or…

  18. 21

    Greg Wingard spews:

    For identification purposes only, I am on the King Conservation District advisory committee (about 3 years), and King County Conservation Voter Board (longer than 3 years). This isn’t intended to provide any position from either group, just to establish I know the background.

    The KCD election is that way it is due to state statute, which created Conservation Districts in our WA. Binding language on elections is written into that statute, so general state election law doesn’t apply to how CD elections are carried out.

    I think the result in this day is not democratic and needs to change. The only way to change it is for the Legislature to change the statute. This has a whole host of problems and complications for KCD, which is roughly the same as King County in terms of map boundaries. Part of the problem is that most the other 40 some CD’s in the state have small, and some virtually no budgets. A bunch of these are also in very conservative areas of the state. This combination makes for a great deal of concern and angst about any move to change election law for all the CD’s across the state, coming out of King County.

  19. 22

    TJ spews:

    N@20:

    You misunderstand. My objection is not to his thought that KCD elections be done in cooperation with other elections, or administered by King Co. Elections.
    My point was that Goldy identified the public entity as King Co. Conservation District. There is no such entity. Doing so creates more confusion for a public district that is so mis-understood already.

  20. 23

    rhp6033 spews:

    Jason @ 15: I didn’t vote absentee ballot because it wasn’t available at the time, unless you were willing to sign an affidavit saying you were going to be out of state or medically incapacitated, etc. I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

    Now, of course, it’s no problem – except that special elections like these seem to not be included in the vote-by-mail system.