Washington voters deciding on variety of races in election; low turnout expected

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OLYMPIA, Washington — Washington voters will weigh in this week on two initiatives dealing with wildlife trafficking and taxes, as well as a competitive legislative race in an off-year election that is expected to have subpar turnout.

Voters across the state received their ballots at home weeks ago for Tuesday's election, but the secretary of state's office has predicted that just 46 percent of the state's four million voters would return their ballots.

"It seems like nothing has lit up the voters this year," said David Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

The biggest-ticket items are the two statewide ballot measures. Initiative 1401 would ban the purchase, sale and distribution of parts or products made from 10 endangered animals: lions, elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.

Initiative 1366 would decrease the 6.5-percent state sales tax to 5.5 percent unless the Legislature approves a constitutional amendment that would reinstate a two-thirds legislative majority requirement if voters approved it. Currently, taxes can be raised through a simple-majority vote of the Legislature.

More than 3,000 local races are also taking place across the state, ranging from city councils, school boards port commissions and local tax measures.

A legislative race that has gotten a lot of attention is taking place in the 30th District, which includes Federal Way. Democrat Carol Gregory was appointed to the seat in January after the death of incumbent Democratic state Rep. Roger Freeman. Gregory is now facing Republican Teri Hickel to serve the remainder of Freeman's term.

Democrats currently hold a slim 51-47 advantage in the House, and Republicans hope to tighten that margin heading into the even more significant 2016 election, when the entire House is on the ballot.

Voters are also deciding on four non-binding advisory votes on tax increases approved by the Legislature earlier this year, including a gas tax increase and an excise tax on medical marijuana. Regardless of the result on those votes, no changes in state law will occur because of them.

Because ballots just need to be postmarked by 8 p.m. election night, results may not be in for days or even weeks in especially close races.

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