Cooper: Vote count counts

59.59 percent! Really?! Barring a miracle in the few remaining ballots to be counted, the Sequim school bond lost by 0.41 percent in Clallam County!

59.59 percent! Really?! Barring a miracle in the few remaining ballots to be counted, the Sequim school bond lost by 0.41 percent in Clallam County!

For the record, the Sequim School District slips a bit into Jefferson County and Jefferson County voters approved the bond by 56.96 percent which represented 90 out of 158 votes bringing the total approval percentage down to an official 59.55 percent approval rate.

Too bad they didn’t put it over the edge, but why would they?

Clallam County could claim that it won the school bond issue by 9.59 percent having received well over the majority of votes. The logic or, should I say illogic, of all of the above makes me nutty.

(People who know me can stop smirking and making up sentences about my nuttiness at this point — this is serious.)

The hair’s breadth closeness of the bond’s failure drove me to look up the facts, something I often do to return to my comfort zone. Here’s what I learned.

More voters were registered county-wide to vote in this election than in the February 2015 election, yet 1,000 fewer voters voted. I couldn’t readily find the number of registered voters for the Sequim School District, but the results show that fewer voters voted in total for or against the school bond than in February.

You will recall that in February the school bond failed by about 2.5 percent which means that about 317 of the no voters would have to have voted yes in order to achieve 60 percent voter approval for the bond. Here’s the kicker in this election — only 49 votes separate defeat from victory in this election.

I challenge someone better at algebra than I to figure out how many more people would need to vote in either of these school bonds elections to get to 60 percent approval. I don’t know how to do it and besides, none of this is getting me in my comfort zone, just nuttier.

Anyone can look up the election data on the Clallam County Auditor website. I recommend doing it if you are a number lover. We can even learn what each precinct did on candidates or initiatives, statewide or local, so I did.

This is the spot where nuttiness begins to spiral. Out of 32 precincts in the Sequim School District, 31 showed a majority of voters in favor of the school bond. The Diamond precinct disapproved the bond by 4 votes or a disapproval rate of 50.6 percent. I wonder if it was the Jefferson influence.

Coyote makes a killing

The Coyote precinct — I don’t know where you are, but you rock for schools — bested all precincts with its approval rate of 65 percent. Next top rockers were the citizens of the City of Sequim with more than 3,000 votes and a 63 percent approval rate. Among those making it over 60 percent approval were Bell Hill, Sunland, Jamestown, Robin Hill and Lost Mountain.

Happy Valley clearly was not happy enough with the bond at 55 percent approval. Agnew and Carlsborg came in at 50 percent and 52 percent causing me to speculate that these communities were satisfied with their great Greywolf Elementary School and didn’t see the need.

I and a couple of friends door belled for the bond in our neighborhood. Alas, it was for naught. Fewer voters voted and a couple more voted against it. I am trying not to take it personally and happy to report that only three households greeted me with tightlipped restrained anger.

Most of those that talked with me were supportive of the school bond. Some were ambivalent and made points such as “the schools should manage expenses better so they could afford to improve facilities,” “the government should be helping schools” — possibly referring to our state Legislature, “My kids aren’t in school anymore,” and “I can’t afford it.”

Larger and more scientific studies would need to be done to learn the motivations of voters in voting, not voting, voting for school bonds or not voting for school bonds. What confirms the craziness, both mine and the system’s, is the tyranny of the minority in a democracy.

The minority rules when it comes to actually attaching dollars to our expressed values when 60 percent approval is required for school bonds.

Think about it. State Initiative 1366 which calls for two-thirds majority approval to raise state taxes won but only required a simple majority to win the November election. We voters can approve minority rule in setting tax rates by one vote but must have 60 percent approval to move students out of unsafe portables and replace a war surplus kitchen.

You may like minority rule in a democracy, but does it make sense to you?

The Ghost of SARC

The lack of the same 60 percent torpedoed SARC’s February bid to levy a 12-cent property tax when it came in at 57.5 percent approval. Three precincts failed to support the SARC levy. The loss drove SARC to the desperate measure of attempting to become a Metropolitan Park District in the August election, the latter going down in fire and brimstone at 41.7 percent approval.

SARC is closed now and may or may not return under the management of the YMCA.

I puzzle over the fate of SARC and the responses I heard about the school bond, but take it all seriously. It all seems to me like a failure of trust in institutions and perhaps a failure of leadership. I don’t like voter apathy, but I admit that I don’t understand it. What’s happening that our community forsakes its resources or lets the minority decide what should go and what should stay?

The one explanation I reject is that people simply don’t care. After all, a majority voted to improve our school and keep our community pool. Schools, legislators, SARC and other institutions under fire must work to regain the lost trust of the public.

I don’t know where or why it went, but we better find it.

Better too that we do our best to inspire and renew the public’s faith in a participatory democracy.


Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at