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Most statewide measures get voter approval

Even though more than a half a million votes are left to be counted and more ballots are arriving via the mail at county auditor offices, most statewide measures have already been decided.

Three initiatives, a referendum, two senate joint resolutions and two advisories were voted on during yesterday's election. Only one, a constitutional amendment to allow investment of public funds by universities, is failing.

An initiative that would allow the creation of a limited number of charter schools in the state is passing, but the vote is still too close to call.

The Washington Secretary of State website indicates that counties currently have more than 600,000 ballots on hand to be counted with more ballots expected to arrive in the mail over the next week. Almost 2 million ballots have been counted, about half the number of registered voters.

Total voter turnout in the 2004 election was slightly more than 84 percent. As of this morning, counted ballots were at just less than 50 percent of registered voters. Turnout in Yakima County was close to 80 percent in 2008, as of this morning only 44.67 percent have been counted in the county.

Initiative 1185

Initiative 1185 requires a two thirds legislative majority or voter approval to raise taxes. It is passing with almost 65 percent of the vote.

In Yakima County, the percentage was much higher, with more than 70 percent approval for the measure.

The initiative is similar to 2010's Initiative 1053, which passed with almost 64 percent of the vote but was challenged on constitutional grounds. The argument against it is that the Washington state constitution only requires a simple majority and cannot be overruled by initiative.

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform, notes that this is the fifth time in 20 years voters have approved a similar measure.

"Whether a lawmaker supports or opposes this policy directive consistently sent by voters, at some point reality has to set in that requiring a supermajority vote for taxes or voter approval is the overwhelming will of the people," said Mercier.

Initiative 1240

Initiative 1240 allows the creation of public charter schools. The initiative is currently passing by a narrow margin statewide. In Yakima County the measure is winning with 53 percent of the vote.

The race is too close to call because voters in King County are against the measure by a small margin and the turnout in the county is currently at only 47.5 percent. In the 2008 election, King County had a turnout rate of nearly 84 percent after all absentee ballots were counted. It is possible that King County voters will defeat the measure.

Referendum 74

Referendum 74 confirms the legislature's decision to allow same-sex marriage in Washington state. It is currently passing with nearly 52 percent of the vote. In Yakima County the vote was overwhelmingly opposed to the measure, with more than 65 percent of the voters rejecting it.

Again, the ballots from King County will be crucial in determining the outcome. That county is trending heavily in favor of the referendum and the number of ballots still to arrive and be counted makes it likely the referendum will pass.

Initiative 502

Initiative 502 legalizes marijuana in defiance of federal laws. It is passing with more than 55 percent of the vote, but that doesn't mean the drug is legal in the state.

The law decriminalizes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and will go into effect 30 days after the election. In the meantime, a one-year rulemaking process will go into effect by the liquor control board to set up the laws that regulate the production of marijuana.

"No state employees will be in danger of violating federal law by setting up the rules," said Alison Holcomb, the campaign director for Yes on I-502. Licenses to grow marijuana will be issued starting Dec. 1, 2013, but growers will still risk federal penalties.

The measure also legalizes industrial hemp in the state, although it will still be a federal crime. Other states that have legalized industrial hemp have not seen an increase in production, according to Holcomb, and the United States still imports the majority of its hemp.

In Yakima County, initiative 502 did not receive voter approval, with nearly 59 percent of the electorate so far voting against it.

Other measures

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221 is passing overwhelmingly. The resolution will phase down the state debt limit by constitutional amendment. Yakima County voters are approving the resolution at a slightly higher rate than the rest of the state.

Senate Joint Resolution 8223 is failing, with more than 56 percent of the electorate rejecting the proposal that would allow the University of Washington and Washington State University to invest public funds in private companies or stock. Yakima County voters are rejecting the measure at 60 percent of the vote.

Voters requested the repeal of tax increases in both the advisory votes. Advisory votes have no effect on the state legislature.

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