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General Election ;kicks off this week with ballots being sent overseas

The voting period for this fall's highly anticipated statewide General Election is about to begin, with Washington's military and overseas voters being the first ones to receive and fill out ballots.

Counties will send out roughly 50,000 General Election ballots to military and overseas voters by the Saturday, Sept. 22, deadline. Many of these voters are expected to use the option of e-mailing or faxing back their completed ballot to their home county elections office.

For the 2012 Primary Election, 50,456 ballots were issued to the state's military and overseas voters.

"On behalf of all 39 counties and my elections division staff, I'm proud and honored that Washington's military and overseas voters are the first to vote in our elections," said Secretary of State Sam Reed, Washington's chief elections officer.

Ballots for other Washington voters will be sent out by Friday, Oct. 19. The statewide voters pamphlet will be sent to all Washington voters by then.

The 2012 General Election includes many important races on the ballot, including president, U.S. Senate, all 10 U.S. House contests, all 98 state House races and half of the state Senate.

All nine statewide elected offices are on the ballot, including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, public lands commissioner, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction. Judicial races are also on the ballot, including three state Supreme Court positions.

Several statewide ballot measures will be placed before voters, including:

• Initiative 1185 (limiting taxes and fees)

• I-1240 (authorizing charter schools)

• I-502 (legalizing marijuana)

• Referendum 74 (legalizing same-sex marriage)

• Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221 (Washington's debt limit)

• Senate Joint Resolution 8223 (investments by the University of Washington and Washington State University)

For the first time there also are two non-binding state advisory votes. They deal with 1) a B&O tax deduction for certain financial institutions' interest on residential loans; and 2) extension of a tax on petroleum products and lowering the rate.

Saturday, Oct. 6, is the postmark deadline for voter registration applications and updates submitted by mail. Monday, Oct. 8, is the last day to register or update information online. Monday, Oct. 29, is the last day to register in person at a county elections office if a person is not registered to vote in Washington.

The 2012 General Election concludes Tuesday, Nov. 6. That is the last day for voters to take ballots to county elections offices or ballot drop box locations, or to be postmarked.

Washington voter turnout in the 2008 General Election was a state-record 85 percent. More than 49,000 military and overseas voters took part in the 2008 General Election, resulting in 73 percent turnout for that voting bloc.

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