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Nearly half of Washington voters will see Feb. 13 ballot proposals

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(The Center Square) – Nearly half of Washington voters will soon be receiving a ballot in the mail for the upcoming Feb. 13 special election.

Depending on location, the ballots may contain proposals for property tax levies, bond measures, annexation requests, and more affecting public schools and other local government entities. Of Washington’s 4.81 million registered voters, nearly 46% are eligible to vote in next month’s election, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

To be counted, ballots must be postmarked or returned to county offices or collection sites by 8 p.m. on election day.

In all, 36 of Washington’s 39 counties will be sending out ballots pertaining to a local jurisdiction or measure. Only three of the state’s least-populated counties – Asotin, Garfield, and Skamania – have no scheduled elections next month.

Most of the ballot measures involve 215 of the state’s 295 public school districts.

In Washington, school districts only need simple-majority votes to pass local property tax funding levies, which can range from one to four years in length and annually collect up to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. Levy dollars support school functions that are not directly paid by the state. These include sports and extracurricular activities, security, technology, transportation, food services, facility maintenance, staff training, and higher-education programs such as College in the High School.

Levy tax dollars also go to school districts that qualify for “levy equalization assistance” from the state. These additional funds are provided to “property poor” districts which have lower overall assessed valuations — but only if their levies are approved by voters.

A number of school districts have also proposed long-term, multi-million-dollar bond sales to finance new construction and major renovation projects. For passage, bond measures require a minimum 60% approval vote plus “turnout validation” representing at least 40% of the total number of people who cast ballots within the district at the last general election.

In Spokane County, for example, 13 school districts are seeking voter approval to replace existing educational-programs-and-operations levies which expire at the end of this year. And five districts have proposed bond measures for major construction projects.

Around the state, there are also 10 fire districts, six cities, three park and three hospital districts, and one county and one mosquito control district with ballot measures set for Feb. 13.

“Your precinct determines what is printed on your ballot,” says the Secretary of State’s Office. “If your precinct is eligible, your customized voters’ guide at VoteWA.gov and your mailed ballot will contain offices and measures based on the address where you are registered to vote.”

To vote in Washington, a person must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen who has been a legal resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to election day. There is a Feb. 5 deadline to register or update an address online. Individuals may also register and vote in person at a county elections office through election day.

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